Your post hits on many key elements of an effective press release. To your point about remembering that "press releases are written for journalists and other media", David Meerman Scott suggests writing releases that appeal directly to your buyers and points to WebEx as a company that does just that. Software companies should keep this in mind as they create their marketing plan, since it affords another opportunity to connect with prospects.
How effective are you finding your company press releases? Do they drive media attention for your software company? Do they pull in leads? Or are they gathering virtual dust in your website press release archive?
The press release can be a highly effective tool to communicate your marketing messages. But to be effective it must:
- be well written (no grammar or spelling errors, concise, and written in the third person in active tense),
- have a single newsworthy message,
- be distributed to the appropriate news outlets, editors and other influencers in your industry,
- have a concise, catchy headline and summary,
- include links and contact information for more detail.
When writing a press release, make sure to keep your audience in mind. First and foremost, press releases are written for journalists and other media. Your press release should help them get their job done (write a news story including your message as one component), and as such it cannot be a sales pitch, it must be truthful, and it must be interesting for their readers.
Where is the best place to publish a press release? That depends on your budget and how much you "do it yourself". If you're going the free route, I prefer PRlog since they allow active links in the press release, they include distribution to Google news even at the free level, they publish quickly and they provide you tracking data on visitors to your press release once it's published. Most of the other press release sites only provide those features at paid levels. But I also like PR.com which is easy to use and less restrictive on the length of your summary, etc. I've used 24-7pressrelease.com recently also, but at the free level they have a longer backlog (often a day or two) until distribution and are less forgiving/more restrictive.
If you have some budget, then PRWeb does a great job with their SEO press release version that should certainly get you better traffic and pickup (assuming you have a newsworthy story in the first place).
Do keep in mind when doing press releases that if it gets posted on various sites so while keeping in mind the audience you also want to have a set of key words you would like to be in the release so that it will show up on search engines and possibly generate some leads down the road.