Please Release Me: How to write a Press Release
What is a press release?
A press release is a short and factual news item that an editor, blogger or an influencer will publish for their readers.
But a press release must work hard before it wins its media slot.
It’s often thought that a newsworthy article shouldn’t be 'salesy.' The worry is that it’ll be rejected if it’s seen as a sales pitch. But if a copywriter can craft something enjoyable, thought-provoking or memorable then it’s not necessarily going to be read like a sales pitch. This won’t be appropriate for every situation. Some press releases will require gravitas and a simple statement of the facts.
So, you need to be very clear about what you’re communicating, how you want to do it and to know who you want to read it. Then write your press release.
Being journalistic enough to attract an editor’s attention is a challenge. And you have two customers, an editor, and the public. If you ignore press release conventions, you’ll annoy the editor and your press release will end up in the bin. Impress an editor and your message will stand a good chance of reaching your audience.
I often find that clients are too close to their subject to write a successful press release. This is where a copywriter can add value to the business by writing a press release that will get published. So, here’s how…
First, a copywriter will always research the market and provide the client with a list of all the potential publications that the press release can be sent to. This is obvious and yet so often overlooked. The media list contains those that have been identified as suitable for receiving the press release. It’s vital to agree this upfront with your copywriter.
Your headline needs to provide the briefest summary of the story. A headline in five or six words is a skill and a challenge even for copywriters. Your press release may be for trade publications and so now is not necessarily the time for being clever or witty. So, think factual and think keywords for people who might be searching for your subject.
Now let the story unfold … briefly. Start with facts, not fuzziness. It’s all about the story and your space is very limited. Your first sentence needs to be loaded with key information, your second sentence develops the key points and so on. And beware the editorial scalpel - if your story runs out of fizz it will be cut. Therefore, don’t bury important information in the middle or leave it to the end. If your story unfolds and flows logically it will stand more chance of staying intact.
It’s important to include a relevant quote that gets to the heart of the press release. This can make it real, personal and human. One quote is usually enough especially if it’s factual and reflects the company and its values successfully.
Make sure that you include citations for any sources. This is a clever way of saying that if you use information from outside your company that you credit that source. Your source will be happy, the editor will be happy, and you’ll look very professional.
Do your research and don’t send colour photos to a publication that doesn’t use colour or doesn’t even use images. For colour or black and white, though, check the conventions for submitting images to that publication and stick to them. Rules are there to be adhered to not ignored. Short video clips are increasingly being used especially by bloggers and influencers so consider it carefully.
There some standard conventions for laying out a press release such as information for editors and company information. Also, include where to go for more information and don’t forget to include your contact details. All copywriters will have a standard template or templates because sometimes it’s important to create several versions of a press release for different media.
All the above seem straightforward enough and they are. And yet press releases remain a challenge for many businesses. It comes back to the same issue with business writing which is how to convey complexity in simple, easy to understand, and entertaining prose. That’s what a copywriter does.
If you need a Press Release or if you have any comments to make on this blog post, I’d love to hear from you.