It seems like I can’t go one day without seeing a link to a BuzzFeed article. Whether it’s “34 Things That Will Make ’90s Girls Feel Old” or “18 Shocking But True Celebrity Facts,” people go crazy for BuzzFeed’s content. The popular site was valued at $200 million in 2013, so it is clearly doing something right. Clearly there is something we as content creators can learn from the site.
After carefully studying the BuzzFeed formula for success, I’ve come up with a few lessons we can apply to press release writing:
1. Use numbered lists to keep text concise and easy to read.
BuzzFeed neatly packages most of its stories as numbered lists, and there are some good reasons for this.
List posts are typically tight and to the point. They don’t have unnecessary fluff. Lists are also easy to scan, so you don’t have to commit a lot of time to reading them. Also, headlines with numbers set a clear expectation for the reader. They tell readers exactly how much they’ll have to invest to read the article.
2. Target a specific demographic.
One thing BuzzFeed does an excellent job of is pinpointing an audience. Each article is targeted at a very specific demographic. For example, I mentioned this article earlier: “34 Things That Will Make ’90s Girls Feel Old.” The audience is girls who grew up during the ’90s.
When it comes to writing press releases, you need to have an audience in mind. Don’t try to create a generic piece you hope will appeal to everyone. You’ll end up with something boring that appeals to no one. Define your audience, and reach out to only that audience.
3. Create interesting, tweetable headlines.
BuzzFeed lures in readers with headlines. When you see a BuzzFeed story on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit or elsewhere, you can’t help but be intrigued by the title-it makes you want to click. That’s what you should strive for with your press release headlines. They should make people want to click and read the story.
4. Evoke an emotional response.
BuzzFeed’s articles almost always play to a specific emotion. Whether they make you laugh, cry or feel nostalgic, they get some sort of response out of you. Make sure your press releases tell emotional stories that involve readers. Emotions make your stories more interesting and memorable.
5. Keep producing content.
BuzzFeed pumps out articles day and night, and not all of them are viral successes. BuzzFeed takes the law of averages approach. If the site puts out enough articles, some of them are bound to get a lot of traffic.
I suggest a similar approach to press release writing. I call it the leaky faucet approach to PR. If you’re persistent and put out high-quality, engaging press releases, you’ll have a better chance of getting a story picked up. (Just make sure you don’t put out crap.)