Updated: May 27
The press release is one the things used regularly in the world of PR and one of the first things to be taught when entering the world of public relations, well that and how to make the tea and back when I started my career how to use the fax machine (yes, I am that old). Whilst it may not be the most sophisticated PR tool it works and there is a skill to it. Get comfy as I explain to you all you need to know about the humble press release.
The press release will often be the first time you communicate with a journalist, so you want to make those words count. The press release shouldn’t be sniffed at. It has secured me coverage for clients across a whole range of media from local newspapers, national supplements, radio and tv interviews, guest blog post up to the high ranks of the women’s monthly glossy magazines like Grazia.
Whilst it may not be rocket science there are some simple rules to follow, which I am going to share with you.
WHAT DOES A PRESS RELEASE DO?
A press release is basically how you communicate your news with the media. It could be writing about an award you’ve won, a campaign you’re running or a product you’re launching, the press release will help you get your message out to your target audience.
As you want to make sure you get the best from your press release ensure you know who your target audience is, what are they reading and where do they get their news? I love getting coverage for clients, but quality always wins over quantity. People often come to me wanting to get their name in the big glossy magazines. I always advise to think whether that is where their customers and clients are and what do they want to achieve? For example, if you’re a new-born photographer in Devon getting a mention in a national parenting magazine may give you some kudos but getting a feature in the Devon gazette (made up publication) is probably going to get more visits to your website, enquiries, and bookings as that is where your audience is.
RULES THAT GO UNSAID
· Journalists are busy people (trust me I married one) and one thing they won’t do is spend ages reading through a four-page press release looking for what the hook is for your story. You need to give it to them and quick. So, if while you’re writing it doesn’t interest you or starts you yawning think how the journalist will feel.
Try and keep your release to around 300-400 words (no more than two pages). It should be written as a ready-made story for the journalist as they will often just cut and paste your release.
If the release is strong enough that they can cut and paste it that is great, but it also means you need to send the release in a way that makes that easy to do such as a word document or I prefer to paste it directly into the email (so they don’t have to open attachments.) Never send a press release as a PDF, they can’t copy the text from it.
A press release needs to be newsworthy not a sales pitch.
Keep it factual, interesting, and true. Journalists are trained to sniff out lies so now is not the time to exaggerate.
Avoid too much industry jargon and technical information. You need to write the release so that it is easily understood, in layman’s terms if possible.
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
The press release follows a pretty simple structure.
A well-presented Word document or email that includes ‘Press Release’ at the top, so the recipient knows exactly what it is.
You need to let them know when they can use it so include either ‘For Immediate Release’ (if it’s ready to go out) or ‘Embargoed’ along with the date (if you’re sending the release in advance and don’t want the news issued until a specific date).
An amazing headline to grab the journalist’s attention.
The ultra-important opening paragraph which should include who, what, where, why and when.
A well written body of text written consisting of three or four short paragraphs, with one or two quotes added in. Do not waffle. Paragraphs two and three of the release should include the factual pieces of information and remember to include anything crucial. #
If you are using quotes make sure they sound human and real as opposed to robotic and jargony. Name the spokesperson and their title. The quote is a great place to get across any key messages and a call to action.
Finish your release with the words ‘ENDS’ – this lets the journalist know that the main release is complete, and the following information is for their eyes only, rather than for the public.
After ends include your contact details
Finish with a notes to editor section which normally includes background information that might help with story. This info isn’t crucial to the story and tends to be broader information such as company background, links that might be of interest etc.
·Always check for spelling and grammar!
Once you’ve written it step away and re-read later or the next day to ensure it is interesting and make sense. I always end up making changes when I have another look.
Don’t go over two pages. More than two pages is usually waffle
I know writing isn’t for everyone but good luck with your releases and if you need any help then don’t hesitate to get in touch as I love writing them. I can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org .
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