Writing press releases is a key part of PR.
Get your releases right and they’ll be published far and wide, but get them wrong, and they a) won’t generate the coverage that they deserve or b) you were hoping for.
It’s not possible to write all of your press releases in exactly the same way, but there are best practice techniques you can follow, like these:
1: THINK ABOUT HOW THINGS LOOK
Before we focus on the writing side of things, there’s just one small, but crucial thing I wanted to flag that has the potential to really impact how your press releases perform, and that’s how they’re presented.
It’s important your press releases look professional, not like something that’s half-heartedly been cobbled together in five minutes. Creating a standard press release template will not only make your releases look spot on and consistent, journalists will instantly know what they’re receiving too.
- Include a high-resolution copy of your company logo
- Add a boiler plate at the bottom (two to three sentences that nicely sum up your company)
- Include key contact details, such as your website, email address and main telephone number.
2. GET TO THE POINT
It’s not uncommon for people to issue press releases that don’t get to the crux of the story until halfway down the page.
This can be really annoying for busy journalists, who have limited time to digest paragraphs of copy. It can also result in your story being misinterpreted or, even worse, overlooked.
Your introduction (or first paragraph) needs to be clear and it needs to be strong. Ideally, it also needs to compel people to read on.
- Include your company name in the first paragraph
- Make sure your first paragraph doesn’t go over one sentence
- Always write with your target audience in mind – what is the hook that’s going to grab their attention? Is there anything ‘new’ in your story? Will they care about your news?
3. THINK LIKE A JOURNALIST
All journalists are trained to get the five Ws – What, Where, When, Who and Why, into their first three paragraphs. There’s also a sixth factor, How, that journalists always consider at the same time as the five Ws that you need to think about too.
They do this to make sure their news stories hook the reader in and tell them everything they need to know there and then. Another reason, is to make sure their story doesn’t get deleted, should subs suddenly need to chop it from a lead story into a 100-word filler.
- Make sure your releases include all, not some of the five Ws. So, if you’re writing a launch release for a new service – What’s the new service? Who’s it for? Why has it been developed? How long did it take to create? Where will it be available? When is it being unveiled?
4. GET QUOTING
Quotes are an excellent way of adding colour and further detail to stories without repeating the information that’s already been shared.
But if adding a quote isn’t going to inject insight and enhance your press release, don’t use one! There’s nothing worse than seeing a quote that repeats the rest of the information in the press releases or states the obvious.
Be original. Your quote is going to take up valuable space (around one to two paragraphs) within your release, make sure you choose what it’s going to say wisely.
- Write quotes that add to your release and don’t just simply repeat sections of it
- Attribute your quotes to a key spokesperson. (Include the person’s full name, job title and details of the company they’re from)
- Make them sound believable – would that person really say that and in that way?
5. REMEMBER, KEEP IT SHORT
It’s important your releases are short and to the point. Not so short that they leave journalists wondering what the actual story is and having to ask reams of questions to complete the information gaps, but of a length that’s detailed enough to clearly communicate your news story.
Ideally, press releases should be no longer than one side of A4, which is around 300 to 400 words long.
- Follow a clear structure, it’ll help make sure your releases contain quality information, not waffle
- Keep your sentences short and to the point. Use Plain English, avoid lengthy jargon and, if you can say something in one word rather than three, then do it!
- Be strict with your word limit – sending journalists essay-style releases is one of the quickest ways to get them to tune out and hit the ‘delete’ button. Firstly, they’re too busy to read them and secondly, most of them really don’t want the hassle of having to trawl through pages of details to see if your story is newsworthy or not
There’s a real knack to writing press releases that stand out in journalists’ inboxes and get picked up far and wide. However, with a little bit of practice and the right techniques (such as those listed above) there’s no reason why your releases can’t rock for all of the right reasons.
About the author
Sanina Kaur is a former journalist with 19 years’ experience that spans journalism, corporate communications, PR and copywriting. Sanina is also a member of the Get Ahead VA team. To discuss your content or PR requirements, contact us on 01483 332220 or [email protected].