Format your press release to improve readership and results

People don’t read the news.

At least not word for word. In fact, skimming has replaced reading. Award-winning writing coach Anne Wylie of Wylie Communications shared that when reading online news:

  • 34% of viewers only browse headlines and 1-2 articles
  • 25% browse a complete article
  • 19% read every word
  • 15% of skimmed titles and some phrases
  • 8% just skim the headlines

These statistics may seem dismal to some communicators. Others will see this as a unique challenge. How can you effectively increase the reach and adoption of your organization’s message when most people are skimming it? Is it possible to increase message permeation and if so, how?

Ann shared tips with us for making press releases 47% more usable and, by implementing these tools, you can grab the attention of skimmers and scanners, ensuring they digest your news – even at a glance.

Putting display copy to work

While casual readers may not read every word of your press release, Ann has a few tips to help them easily understand the main point of your story.

Use display copy to emphasize your key messages and create a visual path for skimmers to follow. Eyes will naturally gravitate to a title, then a subtitle, on a bulleted list with first words in bold. Breaking up your press release with these elements helps with overall readability. Strategically placing your takeaways into these items kicks things off by helping casual readers remember your main points.

What is display copy? Display copy in a press release is any copy that lifts your main ideas off the page. Think title, bridge text, subtitles, lists, links, captions, captions, bold intros, and highlighted keywords.

Showing your story, not just telling it, gives your audience more ways to learn about your news. As the world moves towards visual communications, photos, videos, infographics and other multimedia not only help grab your reader’s attention, but they also help tell your story.

Those who analyze your news will be attracted by the visuals. Include multimedia related to your news and allow it to tell your story.

Press Release Basics: Bullets, Bold, and Hyperlinks

To maximize readability and comprehension of press releases, Ann relies on three main elements: bullets, bold and hyperlinks. These simple elements direct readers to your news and then to your website.

  • People check 70% of the bulleted lists they come across. Ann said it well: the lists are in the eyes of Internet users what Brad Pitt is to the paparazzi. Lists – and Brad Pitt – attract attention.
  • Bold the introductory text for each point from your bulleted list, making them skimmable.
  • Incorporate links and other clickable elements. These account for nearly half of all “eye stops” in a press release. They grab attention and help casual readers digest your news.

When you share your news with Business Wire, Ann reminds you to write a summary of the post and use pull quotes and the “Tweet this” function.

The release summary part of a press release distributed with Business Wire is a feature designed to enhance understanding of the release with a short, simplified summary of your announcement. This text is found at the top right of your published release and should entice readers to read your full release. Summarize key takeaways and focus on how your news will benefit readers.

business thread pull quotes function acts as a legend. This helps break up the text of your release, but also allows readers to quickly tweet your release. When considering what text to use as a quote, think of it like a movie trailer. Concisely share the most compelling and engaging information.

Learn more about the elements of a release distributed by Business Wire.

Everyone flies over

Ann reminds us that in all industries, everyone who reads your news is human and many will likely just skim or scan your release. By using Ann’s formatting tips and taking advantage of Business Wire’s built-in news features, you can optimize your news for casual readers. This will help you grab the attention of skimmers and scanners, improving the adoption of your news posts.

Get more in-depth fitness tips from Ann by watching a recording of our webinar, How to make your press releases 47% more usable.

Don’t forget to register for the next Ann Masterclass in Public Relations Writingwhich begins August 15.

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