My PR career started at a global agency and whilst the Account Director scared me to death, her vivid red scrawl across my press releases quickly taught me the tricks of the trade.
Over the past 17 years I have written more releases than I care to remember but they have helped me get clients in the press, build relationships with journalists and one even landed me a top job in TV.
Today, as a writer and blogger, I receive hundreds of press releases a week. Whilst some impress and even inspire me, I am increasingly disillusioned by the lack of news, poor crafting and inability to get to the point fast.
It may not be rocket science, but a press release is a fundamental PR tool which, when written and communicated properly, can be worth its weight in gold and therefore time needs to be taken to get it right.
So, let’s go back to basics and look at what a press release is and how you can get it right.
In a nutshell, a press release is a statement specifically written for the media that talks about news. Whether it is an event, charity campaign, award ceremony, product launch or the announcement of excellent sales figures, the content has to be new and newsworthy for your audience
If you think you have news just stop and ask yourself who would be interested and would they care? Sounds harsh, but does anyone really care that you got a new printer for the office, that your MD is wearing the same glasses as David Beckham or that you sold five pairs of pants last week?
You might laugh but it is amazing how many bad press releases are sent out with poor headlines, tenuous celebrity links and demands that the journalist must cover this story because it is ‘ground breaking’.
The problem is, if you simply churn out release after release for the sake of it, you risk alienating journalists and this can make your job harder and damage your reputation.
However, if you only write a release when you have news, your contacts will know you are reliable and life starts to look rosy as the column inches stack up.
If you definitely have got news to talk about, the best way to proceed is to consider the following questions, known in the PR world as the five W’s and one H:
- What is new?
- Why is it important or why does it matter?
- Who is involved?
- Where is this happening?
- When is it happening? and
- How did this come about?
The answers to each point will create the content of your release and ensure all bases are covered.
Start your press release with a snappy headline that will catch the attention of the journalist and use this as your email header to stand out in an overflowing inbox.
The first paragraph is crucial because it has draw in the reader and keep their attention so make it sharp, to the point and write it in the third person.
The rest of the press release, up to a maximum of five paragraphs, should cover the story in more detail and ideally include a quote to give the story a human touch.
Once you have double-checked the copy and quotes, add details about images and spokespeople being available and ensure contact information is supplied.
When sending out your release, personalised emails, with a short introduction and the body of your press release included is the best method in the digital age.
Do not attach PDFs or large images and under no circumstances call the journalist ‘darling’ or ‘honey’ or you, and your press release, will end up in the bin.
For more details about how to write the perfect press release download Natalie Trice’s ‘Writing a Press Release – An Art, Not Rocket Science‘ from Amazon.