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How to make most of e-mail releases

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The rise of e-mail as a legitimate and accepted form of corporate public relations has created new opportunities for transmitting press releases. But marketers need to know the rules for making best use of this resource, or risk wasting it altogether.

An e-mail press release has some subtle but crucial differences from its traditional paper counterpart.

AVOID AUTOMATIC DELETE

A badly formed and formatted e-mail press release can often mean the recipient hits the delete key before even attempting to read it. Too often, companies simply take the release they originally created for paper distribution, cut and paste it into an e-mail message, and let it fly. This is a wasted opportunity.

Here are some tips for making your e-mail press release as effective as possible.

First and foremost, never spam or send untargeted mass mailings of any type. Automated PR is an oxymoron. Think about it, know your audience and respect them. Don't be too friendly, nor too formal.

Second, recognize that you need to make your release as reader-friendly as possible. A great number of e-mail software packages exist, and each recipient may have a different one.

Some e-mail packages let users change the font my e-mail is displayed in, as well as the font I compose in. That's great if you have bad eyes, but this also means that a press release I read in each of these e-mail programs looks remarkably different, and probably different from how it looked to the person who composed it.

USE STANDARD FONT

To help bring consistency to your releases compose them in the standard Courier typeface in 10-point size. Then, type only 60 to 68 characters per line, hitting the return key to begin each and every new line.

Not hitting the return key can result in a "runaway line" that goes beyond the right margin of your e-mail. This is common for users of Pine and Unix mail, which won't always automatically wrap your text.

You might also include a line of text in parentheses advising recipients to set the font of their e-mail software to Courier 10 point for best reading. This is a common fixed-width font and is what most folks use when they create a release.

Third, include the right type of contact information. Usually, a press release has a contact person and phone number for more information. In an e-mail press release, you need to also include the e-mail address for the contact person and the URL for the company Web site.

INCLUDE THE URL

Include the URL in a prominent location, also on its own line. I once received an e-mail press release that went on and on about a new Web site, but they forgot to include the URL. Another had the URL in a long line of text that made it tricky for me to cut and paste in my Web browser.

Both of these fairly minor formatting points left me frustrated with these releases, and I never did visit the Web sites themselves.

Now imagine you are an editor or reporter who receives 50 such press releases a day, most of them badly formatted and not user-friendly. It becomes easy to see why the delete button gets heavy use.

BE DESCRIPTIVE IN INTRO

Finally, use a descriptive subject line in your e-mail. This is the first thing most of us see when we open our mail, and more often than not I choose which e-mail I read by the content in the subject line.

Don't simply type "Press Release" on your subject line. Check the sample subject lines below, and see which one you'd be more inclined to read.

Subject: ACME Press Release

Subject: ACME to Launch RoadRunner Server v2.0 Monday

Some might argue that by telling too much in the subject, you risk having editors delete it. But the editors who don't want your news release won't be fooled either way, and this way it will reach the ones who do need it.

Eric Ward is the founder of Web site awareness-building services NetPOST and URLwire and is a former marketing director at Whittle Communications. He can be reached at ericward@urlwire.com.


If you want to prospect using direct e-mails, here are some companies that rent lists and send e-mails:
Company/PhoneComments
PostMaster Direct
(718) 522-1531
Opt-in list owner-broker sends your message for 10 cents-20 cents/name
Internet Marketing Group
(516) 255-0500
Owns lists of catalog and publishing subscribers; sends most of its own e-mail
Internet Media Group
(561) 347-5060
Collects names and manages lists for a variety of companies
Electronic Direct Marketing
(888) 551-7600
Toll-free number included in mailings so recipients can get off lists
CyberPromotions
(215) 628-9780
President Sanford Wallace is self-proclaimed "King of Spam"
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