Writing press releases is a common task for freelance writers, journalists and senior marketing personnel or PR managers. However, writing a great press release means pitching it correctly to the target audience and ensuring a professional business image is maintained at all times.
There is a format to writing good press releases and any organisation seeking the highest levels of newspaper coverage should master this technique on how to write the best press release.
Before you begin…
Any organisation looking to achieve great news coverage from a press release needs to take a good look at the information the release imparts prior to making any attempt at composing the text. If you want your press release to be picked up by major news organisations, it’s really important that the story provided is actually newsworthy.
Campaigning organisations like Friends of the Earth tend to be pretty hot at writing the drop-dead press releases that journalists love. You may want to check out a few of their stories to find out ways you could incorporate their strategies into your press release toolkit. You may also want to source online press release templates to guide your text layout.
Questions to ask before drafting your press release
The sort of questions you need to ask yourself when drafting your text include:
- Does my story highlight anything new?
- Does it contain unusual or unexpected elements?
- Would the story be interesting to readers who are not in my line of business?
- Is it likely to raise awareness and will anybody actually care about the story?
If you don’t really feel you can answer the questions above in a positive manner, then it may be a good idea to postpone issuing a press release until you’ve got a better story to distribute.
The fact is, many receive hundreds of press releases on a daily basis. A substantial proportion of these are deleted from inboxes without even being opened. And if your press release doesn’t feature a standout header, then it’s highly likely to be junked without a read through.
Follow these simple tips when writing a press release
1. Give your press release the sort of fascinating headline that will encourage journalists to open the text. You can source sample headlines and tips online to give some idea of the best way to approach their wording.
2. Label your email as a press release or storyline to ensure journalist recipients are aware what it is.
3. There’s no need to try to be too clever. If a journalist cannot understand a storyline, your press release will be junked: keep things simple. That means witty headlines, puns and complex stories are a no-no when it comes to drafting a professional press release. You could check out some sample press releases to get a feel for the writing style needed.
4. Try to summarise the most important information in the first sentence of the text. This is known as the top line and should be formatted in a way that’s similar to news stories. This is where the five or six Ws of news writing come into play:
The five Ws of news stories relate to the who, where, when, what and why of a story, and one H should also be included: the how.
Skim a few newspaper stories before drafting your press release, to see how professional journalists relay this vital information.
5. Keep to the point and remain concise. You should aim to write a text of no more than 400 words for any press release, and this should also include at least one quote.
6. If you want to send company background details with your press release, add them as a note to the editor so that journalists can make their own decisions on what they might want to include.
7. Using subheads or bullet points can make press releases easier to read, particularly if you’re including a lot of statistics or figures in the text.
8. All quotes used should provide greater insight into the storyline and should sound genuine and as if they had been spoken by a real person. Don’t include any technical language or industry jargon.
9. Keep in mind that press releases are not newspaper stories. You can maximise the opportunity of obtaining press coverage by tweaking it for each publication you send it to. This can help ensure it meets editorial standards and guidelines more appropriately.
10. When you’ve composed your header and informed recipients you’re mailing a press release to their publication, it’s often a good idea to start off your email with a short outline of the storyline and the reason you feel it may appeal to a particular readership. This should be no more than 100 words or so, and the press release should be pasted beneath and labelled accordingly.
If you are attaching images, ensure files are not too large. Busy journalists are quite likely to delete emails which take too long to load.
Benefits of using professionals to compose press release copy
Not all businesses employ their own public relations or media teams, and writing press releases can be an extremely sensitive task. If your company does not have the essential workforce talent to write a high-quality press release, engaging a professional press release writing service to do this job can be the most cost-effective solution.
Using professionals to write your company or individual press releases can be a quicker way to achieve your goals and gain access to all the newspapers and publications needed to publicise your company story, new service or product range. Press releases can be an extremely effective way of promoting a business when resources are limited and high levels of exposure are required. Making the decision to opt for professional drafting is possibly one of the best marketing tools available to businesses of any size.
Main image credit: brotiN biswaS
Internal image credits: Tirachard Kumtanom, Frans Van Heerden, Britta Jackson