Writing a press release and getting published is an almost unrivaled way of gaining publicity. The media highlight your product or service, but they do not do so out of the goodness of their heart. They do so because you have given them something of interest to their readers or audience.
Before you write, remind yourself of what exactly a press release is – a statement that provides the media with useful, relevant, newsworthy information.
Tips are merely tips. They are not a magic formula. But applying these 17 tips intelligently and thoughtfully should help you to write a good press release.
1. Find the angle
Put yourself in the mind of a reporter and ask yourself: Where’s the story? This is perhaps the most crucial step in writing a good press release, but it’s not as easy as it sounds. You need to find a newsy angle – that is, an angle that is relevant, timely, and interesting.
One person’s news is another person’s big yawn. You may be excited about your new product, but the media may not share your enthusiasm. Make sure that you present your news so that it is also news to the media and will interest your reader.
The media is interested in whatever is relevant, timely and important to its audience or readership. Once you get a good angle, the headline, the intro and the rest of the copy should come easily.
2. Try to link your story to a current event
If you can, link your story to a major event or issue that is currently in the news. Such an association will add relevance to your story.
3. Remember that a press release is aimed primarily at the media
It’s not aimed at potential clients or customers, who are secondary. If you don’t engage the interest of the media, your target market will never hear your news.
4. Follow the format for a press release
Check the proper format for a press release and follow it.
5. Get attention with a great headline
You have a few seconds to gain your reader’s attention. If you don’t write a catchy headline, the reader will think: This is not worth running. Don’t over-dramatize, but make the headline as strong as you can. You don’t want your reader to say “So what?”
If you found a good angle, then writing your headline should be easy.
6. Make sure that the introductory paragraph also grabs the reader’s attention and follows on effectively from the headline
The intro must follow on strongly from the headline and entice the reader to keep reading. Don’t use the exact same words as in the headline. Don’t pack in too many details: just tell the essence of your story in as compelling a way as possible.
7. Focus on the benefits of your product or service, rather than what it is or does
Show, if possible, how you solve a problem, or meet a need, and give brief, real examples.
8. Don’t hype, exaggerate or indulge in puffery
Convey to the media that you are a reliable source of information. Journalists are highly skeptical creatures. Stick to the facts.
9. Promote discreetly
A press release is about something newsworthy. It is not an advertisement or a sales pitch. But relevant facts that speak well for your company or organization can be mentioned along the way, such as charity work or an award.
10. Remember that how something is said is crucial
Many excellent things have been said but ignored because of the way they were expressed. Quotable quotes are remembered because something was said in a brief, clear, often witty (‘Brevity is the soul of wit’) way.
11. Keep it simple and effective
Write in clear, straightforward English, using everyday words and avoiding jargon and technical terms where possible. If you have to use a technical term, explain it in simple language. Use strong verbs. Avoid flowery language and weak adjectives.
12. Make every word count
Be concise. Tell your story as vividly as you can, but remember that adjectives — unless well chosen — will not make your writing vivid.
13. Sprinkle quotations through the text
A sequence of paragraphs without quotes looks ‘dead.’ Quotations — which quotation marks make immediately visible — add the human voice to a press release.
14. Add personality and voice
Readers identify more with named people than with a company or organization, so get names if possible into your text (along with a suitable quotation).
15. Don’t omit essential information
Check that you’ve answered all the ‘w’ questions (the who, what, where, when and why), and, if relevant, the ‘how’ question.
16. Make sure the text is error-free
You will not create a good impression if your release contains errors in spelling, grammar and syntax. Don’t rely on the spellcheck. Read through the text carefully.
17. End with a bang, not a whimper
Don’t let your press release fizzle out. If you’re stuck for an idea, you could end with a quote, which neatly summarizes what the story is about, or thrusts it forward.
When you’ve written your release, test it – or at least the headline and intro – on someone who is not involved in your company or organization, and who would be a good judge of its newsworthiness.
If your judge yawns, have another go.