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February 7 2008

Writing a Press Release – 72 Hours and Shoemoney says GO!

Written by / Posted in public relations / 12 Comments

How to Write a Press Release – with a little help from some friends.

You get an e-mail on a Friday morning from Jeremy (Shoemoney) Schoemaker and he asks if you can write a press release. He’s having an event called the Elite Retreat with the top names in the industry with people flying in from all over the world. He says the Press Release needs to be world class, and it absolutely needs to be done by Monday morning.

Your grammar isn’t so hot, you can’t spell worth a crud, and you have never written a press release in your life. In fact, you don’t actually know for sure what a press release is. What do you say?

You say, Yes! Of course! Absolutely, No Problem! YES!
It’s Shoemoney, what else are you going to do?

Then you gotta tell the wife that doing the taxes this weekend is out, even though you promised her you would get them done. You clear off the dinning room table, and you get to work.

So how do you write a Press Release?

First stop, PRWeb. They have guidelines there. It takes a bit of reading to make sense of it.

For webheads PR Web is the most obvious and easiest place to find info on Press Releases and to release them.

If you write a Press Release by the rules, it can fall into the well oiled international news machine that has been running for around a 100 years. The rules are a bit rigid, but if you follow them, and your press release appeals to the media, your words can end on a conveyor belt going out to all the big names in the press like CNN or NBC, and maybe even end up on some kids blog.


These are the official parts of a Press Release as presented on PR Web’s guidelines.
PR Web is where we released the guidelines.

Part 1. Headline (should be less than 80 characters)

Part 2. Summary Paragraph. (1 to 4 sentences)

Part 3. Body (In the entire press release there can be at most 300 to 800 words)

Part 4. Additional Information (This is simply one line telling where to go for more info)

Part 5. About Section (A short paragraph about each of the main people, event or main thing in the release.)

Part 6. Contact info. (Include Contact Persons Name, Organization name, phone number and website.)

Part 7. ### (this is a bit of random code that must go at the end of a press release)

The first step is to write the headline.
It needs to be written in under 80 characters and really sum up the whole story.
This is one area where you can stick in a little creativity and give it a little edge. Keeping it under 80 characters while describing the full texture of this event was like trying to get two dozen screaming spider monkeys into a Dodge Caravan.

I could have written this title
“Story on a new Small Personal Internet Conference in San Francisco.


The problem is that although the above is factual, it totally misses the real spirit of the event. This event rocks, so I want the headline to capture the excitement Jeremy feels about it, the enthusiasm the speakers bring to it, and my pure level of stoke that I have about the event!

So I spend half a day just on the Headline. When someone reads the title, they either are interested and dive in, or get bored and click out. The title should be engaging but not be sales copy. If it smells too much like an advertisement PR Web won’t release it, and the news agencies will delete it like last weeks herbal male enhancement spam.

By the way, after you submit your Press Release, you get to look forward to PR Web giving you a grade on a scale from 1 to 5. The grade is a combination of how well you followed the PR Web format, and how newsworthy your article is. A first article about a new volcano in Manhattan or a 12 foot bumble bee, if well written, can score you a 5. Most of PR Web’s published articles get a 4. If you get a 1,2, or a 3, you lose your submission fee and it ends up in the trash bin.

Here is my final Headline.

Shoemoney Media Group Announces Elite Retreat Providing Direct Access to Top Internet Entrepreneurs

Next is the summary paragraph, which must be from one to four sentences. These few sentences, standing alone, should tell the complete story. This section should be written so that you could hand it to Anderson Cooper and have him read it as a complete news story on the nightly news.

If you hit it big, you may find your story on the cover of Wired magazine next month, or in Business Week Magazine.

I want to really nail this summary paragraph more than any other part of the Press Release.

The Elite Retreat speakers are some of the top guys of the Internet world. They are not just pumping up smoke of how great they are, they are folks who on a daily basis create major waves, and make serious money. You want to convey the power and breadth of who and what these guys are.

The first speaker is Jeremy (Shoemoney) Schoemaker who is famous for affiliate marketing, but has reportedly made millions with his “auction ads” software that places advertisements on other sites, and made a big mark early on selling ringtones.

We have Neil Patel, a guy in his way, early 20’s who is reported to be making $20,000 a month getting major corporations to the front page of Digg.

Aaron Wahl is the next speaker who is known for literally having written the book on SEO on his well known site

Brian Clark, whose site I have returned to for a long time, is a widely read authority on writing.

Andy Liu, one of the speakers I am most excited to hear, has actual real life successful experience in the Angel Investing area, and will be talking about how to raise start up money in the current economy.

David Dellanave, who is not mentioned much in most of the press about the Elite Retreat, is Shoemoney’s main programmer. David is the behind the scenes guy, seamlessly tying all of the code together in Shoemoney’s vast and varied projects. He is not as well known as the other guys, but is a really powerful force that should never be dismissed.

So I am left with a quandary. What do you call this crew? Internet Marketers? ECommerce experts? SEO guys? What one word can you use that encompasses the breadth of who they are. SEM, (Search Engine Marketing) ties most of it together, but does everyone know what it means?

None of these terms sum up what I amlooking for. Jeremy comes to my rescue and suggests that I simply list the top five things these guys do. I am leaving out the Venture Capital part which is huge, but I think the terms used show the breadth of what will be covered.

Here is my two line summary.

Ecommerce, Search Engine, Social Media, Programming and Website gurus from around the world will meet in April at San Francisco’s Intercontinental Hotel for the Elite Retreat. Jeremy “Shoemoney” Schoemaker hosts and leads this conference that connects online businesspeople with leading Internet industry experts.

I find the next part, the main body, to be significantly easier. This is where you tell the whole story. As long as you keep the whole Press Release under 800 words you are in good shape. I suggest not just filling the whole thing with crud. Tell the story, and then stop writing. I spent a good day and a half on this part, trying to use the best quotes, the best grammar, and the most content heavy words I could find.

In fact after writing the press release, I find that I really notice how wordy posts like this one are compared to the content rich writing of a press release. One challenging part for me was that the grammar has to be perfect, and you should stay away from opinion, and exaggeration. Most of my English classes were spent on my skateboarding, surfing and professional skimboarding career!

There is a little crevice in all of the rules of a Press Release where you can have fun. It is the feeling of summer vacation that is found between the quote marks in the main body of the press release. The deal is, that if you are using a quote from someone else, and it is true, then between the quotes you can say anything.

You can ask some random guy named Joe Shmoe on a bulletin board what he thinks of Stefan Juhl, and if the guy says “Stefan is an old Norwegian eating pasta in Greece”, and you can confirm Joe said this, then you can put it in quotes, state that Joe Schmoe said it, and put it in your Press Release.
Legal Note – Stefan Juhl by the way is actually a Dane who is currently living in Cypress, but is indeed eating pasta under a sunny blue sky at the very moment you read this.

So, here I am less than 48 hours from the deadline and I have to get most excellent quotes. Who better to ask quotes from, than the world class speakers we already have for the Elite Retreat?

E-mails go out, blog comments get left, favors get cashed in by asking friends to fess up the cell phone numbers of the internet rock stars. I go to outlook, Wait, refresh, Wait, refresh, Wait, Refresh. The phone rings and it is a call from Neil Patel calling me from London. I get the worlds shortest e-mail from Aaron Wahl ?. Andy Liu e-mails apologizing for taking so long to get back to me after it has been like 4 hours since I e-mailed him, and we had only exchanged no more than literally 3 words before this. Shoemoney says “Call” and spends 40 minutes on the phone with me on a Saturday letting me into the inner workings of this massive enterprise that I assure you, you have only glimpsed a tiny tip of the iceberg of.

Basically within a few hours I have access to a half dozen of the top guys in our industry. I pump them with questions, scratch down responses, and then sit down with the quotes and weave them together into a story.

From what angle do I want to promote about this? Where should I start?

This is not my event, although now I feel an integral part of it. When I speak to Jeremy (Shoemoney) for half an hour on Saturday, what I hear in his voice when he talks about the event, is an honest, deep hearted desire to help the participants. He knows the frustration we have all felt in trying to figure out how to solve some complex problem regarding internet marketing, and he wants to help us.

See, Mr. Shoemoney has not always been a big internet millionaire. He has worked really hard to get where he is. He has gotten a lot of help. And the only reason he is doing this event is not to make money, but to help others fulfill their dream, and have their moment in the sun.

In speaking to Jeremy, he really discloses a few details. I really get one thing for sure. Jeremy and the other guys speaking are not doing this as a way to make money. Although the event is around $5,000, it is so small, with so few guests, and in such an amazing venue, that each of them on average ends up making far less than they would just doing their own daily businesses.

Jeremy conveys to me in his own way that he wants people to know that this event is unlike anything they have ever seen, where they have some of the biggest names in the industry digging down deep to figure out how to help you.

Some of the numbers I calculated from some of the details Jeremy said, led me to figure that this event is very, very, very small potatoes for him financially, and that he literally is doing this only to help us fellow webmasters and marketers.

So how the heck do you get that across in a Press Release without it sounding like a cheesy sales pitch, that no one is going to believe. (In fact I guarantee that some people reading this right now don’t believe what I am saying!)

So I put together quotes that I feel really show that the guys involved care, and that they know what is going on.

Here are a few of the quotes.

Jeremy – “The Elite Retreat breaks the mold of large livestock-style Internet conferences, and brings the attendees face-to-face with the speakers. The up and coming webmaster can get one-on-one consulting from one of the rock stars of our profession. I have seen our top programmer, David Dellanave, break out his computer right on the spot to write new code for an attendee to execute solutions.”

David Dellanave (Jeremy’s head programmer) – “One attendee last year had a great site with fantastic content, but very few pages were indexed in Google. By making just a few changes in the code, we were able to increase his indexed pages by 2000 percent that very weekend. Since then, their traffic has increased exponentially,”

I am putting in this quote from Neil Patel so it can convey the sheer massiveness of the playing field that he plays on. I met Neil at my poker tournament, and thought he was very nice, but knew nothing about him. This excerpt from the Press Release says it all.
Neil Patel, founder of Advantage Consulting Services and a speaker at the event, said, “I plan on using this small conference format to reveal how I can leverage Facebook to get 100 million visitors per month”

Are you fricken kidding me? 100 million visitors per month? As soon as he said that, being the hardened news reporter that I am, I said like a school girl who just found out where babies come from with my jaw resting on the floor, “Really?”
I don’t think Neil is too impressed with my massive Facebook mastery at this point.

If you tie your Press Release in with current events, then it may fit into broader stories in the news more easily. So When Andy Liu gives me a quote about raising venture capital money in today’s market, I tie the quote into today’s current bumpy stock market, and Andy’s expertise with angel investing.

The fact that I already know Jeremy, David, Neil and Andy personally already probably has a huge effect on why I write a bit more about them as opposed to the other speakers. I respect Aaron’s work tremendously. I fricken love Brian Clark’s Copy Blogger site and read it myself. The one time I heard Guy Kawasaki talk he was both brilliant and hilarious. I guess I just have more to talk about the people I know from having met them face to face.

So now I am down to the bottom of the body of the Press Release. At this point I simply state the who and how of getting more information.

I then write a short About section for the event, and then an About for each of the people involved. This is just a really, really short biography of the person or thing. The slant that I put is who they are in a way that reinforces the above story. For most of this part I simply stole data, and even some direct wording from About sections written about them in the past.

I need to make a choice about whether to include David Dellanave in the About section. He is an integral part of the seminar, but is not one of the headline speakers. Same thing went for Guy Kawasaki. He is a big name too, but there are so many important people to talk about in this Press Release I had to draw the line somewhere to keep it under 800 words.

I then write the contact section at the bottom.

Then I send it out to two professional editors to review the whole thing for grammar and spelling errors. I also triple check that I spell Schoemaker, Schoemaker, and not Shoemaker.

Then comes my favorite part of the whole thing, cause its easy! This has to be a throw back to teletypes going ditit dit ditit dit, as the news came in across the wire as they called it back in the 1940’s and 50’s. At the very end of a Press Release to indicate it is over you simply type the number sign three times.

You can sign up for or read more about the Elite Retreat here.

Here is the Final Elite Retreat Press Release.
You can hear what Shoemoney and Chris Winfield have to say about my Press Release here.


  1. jwalker said on February 7th, 2008 at 10:17 am

    Funny picture.

  2. Gab "SEO ROI" Goldenberg said on February 7th, 2008 at 5:55 pm

    So has it been picked up by the media?

  3. Janet Meiners said on February 8th, 2008 at 7:32 pm

    First, sounds like a great conference. You did a great job on the press release and this post about it.

    Second, I’m in terrible suspense about the score your press release got. I always get a 4 on my press releases. I asked PRWeb how to get a 5, they said, ‘walk on water’ or if you do, we’ll hire you!

    I’ve written a lot of optimized press releases for clients and I really want the perfect 5. I believe it’s in the newsworthiness that I need.



  4. dk said on February 9th, 2008 at 4:13 am

    SEO ROI,
    All I know so far is that Shoemoney and Chris Winfield both liked the Press Release, and that on Shoemoney’s webmaster radio show he said he got some calls that I believe came about from the Press Release.

    I am sorry to report that I got a 4 out of 5. I have always been a C student, so for me 80% is pretty good.

    According to PR Web, the score is based on both following their format, and the news worthiness of the story. Although I think this is going to be a kick ass conference, it probably does not have the broad based appeal of say Jessica Alba getting a new hair color, or Ron Paul getting a Grammy. I think they give the first announcements of things like that a 5.

    Would you like to drop a link here in the comments to a Press Release or two that you wrote so I can read them?



  5. Stefan Juhl said on February 11th, 2008 at 6:42 am

    Hehe.. David, I like your example of quoting 😉

  6. Shanti Braford said on February 15th, 2008 at 3:00 pm

    Great writeup.

    Press releases seem to be a most-overlooked artform these days. 🙂

  7. Ben said on February 15th, 2008 at 4:41 pm

    Clicked on the press release link to PR Web though and had the audio start on me automatically. Is that what you wanted? I find sound on websites without me initiating them pretty annoying. In fact, I couldn’t see a way to stop the audio without killing my speakers, thereby allowing me to read the press release.

    Anyway, I liked the blog article, and congratulations on producing such a great press release on your first try!

  8. dk said on February 15th, 2008 at 4:52 pm

    It was interesting filling out the information on PRWeb. They ask you a bunch of questions, and you fill in the blanks, most of which is simply the text of the press release itself.

    Then at the end they drop the site the press release links to into the Press Release. This part was a surprise to me at the end.

    The Elite Retreat site (including the music) had nothing to do with me. I am guessing they put the music on so that the first time you go to the site BAM! you get the impact of it. I personally liked that part of the E.R. site the first time I went there, and since the first time just turn down my speakers.

    The music was not originally designed to go into the press release, it was simply the way PRWeb embeds the Elite Retreat site, and my not knowing about the music in advance.


  9. cher said on February 17th, 2008 at 7:07 am

    Hey DK! Brilliant breakdown! I’ve actually been looking for a step by step over the last few days, couldn’t have come at a better time.

    Thanks for your attention to detail!


  10. Betsy said on May 20th, 2008 at 10:55 pm

    DK — I would agree with Cher: it’s a brilliant breakdown of how to write a press release! I also really liked Brian Clark’s Copy Blogger — thanks for pointing me in that direction. PS — I’d be thrilled to copy-edit for your next press release: just ask me!

  11. SnowBall said on July 14th, 2010 at 6:09 pm

    I am seriously about to bookmark this page right now. I don’t plan on writing a press release in the near future, but if I do I am using this as a guideline. dk, you make things so simple to understand it blows my mind. And the Elite Retreat sounds like some serious business. To Neil Patel: I don’t think I’ve ever heard the number 100 million used in a sentence. Ever. That’s a lot of visitors. Jeremy Schoemaker sounds like a smart, giving, and successful fellow. @cher:
    @Betsy: I totally agree, seriously going to use this breakdown if ever I am asked to do a press release.

  12. […] DK has written a great blog post about how he did it and I think its a very educational read. He chronicles everything from the first initial contact to getting the press release out. […]

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