A well written press release, distributed through the correct channels, can increase web traffic and boost search engine rankings. A big part of this success relies on being able to react to breaking news quickly, so it’s worth developing a solid press release template to follow, so you can get your take on the latest news in front of key influencers before anyone else.
Before you start, understand that there is no strict formula for writing a successful press release. To adopt a few bits of fishing terminology: it’s not a ‘one bait catches all’ process; you might have to cast your line out for a while before you get a bite.
Start by listing variations of the following questions at the top of your press release template:
• What am I trying to say?
• Why is it worth saying?
• How am I going to say it?
• Who am I targeting?
• Where is this appearing?
These should get the person writing the press release thinking of the bigger picture, in regards to its purpose and what you hope it can achieve for your brand.
Choose a catchy title
Highlight the importance of choosing an eye-catching title in your press release template. There’s a reason why newspapers jostle for space outside newsagents with clever ‘play on words’ and ‘what did that say? headlines that make people stop in their tracks, buy the paper and read more. The same rationale applies to picking an enticing title for your press release.
Susan Payton from Cision suggests that, when writing a press release, you should imagine the story being printed on a front page. Choosing a headline to match, will, according to Payton’s interviewee Melissa L. James, help people look at the article through ‘readers eyes.’
Remember to pick a title that conveys what you’re trying to get across, without being too heavy on keywords; you want people to be persuaded into reading your release, but you don’t want to mislead them with ‘clickbait’ or robotised sales copy. It may help to write the headline after you’ve composed the rest of the release, so you know exactly what you need to cover.
Focus on the top line
The next ‘box to tick’, if you will, is the press release’s top line.
Ensure the theme of your release is perfectly encapsulated by the opening sentence. This should summarise what the release is about and, once again, it should read like the introduction to a news story. As Copyblogger highlights: “Your average information-hungry consumer won’t stand two seconds for dry, self-indulgent marketing babble.” If you’re writing about the launch of a new store, for example, just announce it: people don’t need or want to hear about your turnover or USPs – yet!
If in doubt, cut it out
In the words of the English language’s greatest communicator, brevity is the soul of wit – so don’t go overboard. Use every word carefully and, if in doubt, cut. Jeremy Porter highlights a particularly bad, jargon-filled release, while also quickly remedying its faults and producing an easier-to-read example that still communicates the original message.
Choose your quotations carefully
All good press releases will include a handpicked quotation from a relevant individual that adds to the provenance of the piece. Ensure quotations aren’t platitudinous and don’t merely repeat the points made in the main copy.
Write in the third person
Always write in the third person – stamp this in capitals across the top of your outline if you like – anything else and it’ll just sound like sales copy.
Think outside the box! Brands are no longer constrained by two-dimensional black and white print, so tell your press release writer to review the article and include informative links, pictures or videos, where necessary.
Hannah Fleishman of HubSpot is particularly vocal on this, pointing out that it’s worth sitting down together as a team to discuss how you can include infographics, slideshows and the like to increase the likelihood of your content being shared across different channels.
This example, from British tech start-up The Soldier’s Box, includes a video that demonstrates the value of the product being offered, while still providing the fully-formed content that can be spun into a news story. Of course, the publisher doesn’t have to use the video, but it could help pique their interest.
Who are ya?
Don’t forget that, after telling the story, you need to include some details about your company. After all, you aren’t doing this to give journalists and online publishers an easy life; you’re doing it as part of your content marketing strategy! Contact details are vital, but don’t provide a long list – choose between phone number, email address, web/blog address and social media handle, depending on the type of release and the nature of your business.
The key to success here is quality. Your releases should be written with the human consumer in mind. Make them relevant, informative, attractive and readable, and you should start to notice just how effective they can be. Finally, don’t forget to proofread thoroughly for grammar, punctuation and spelling before you send – releases are often published as is, and you don’t want your business to look unprofessional!