How to write killer press releases!
If you're looking to get media coverage for your business and you don’t have the budget for a PR team, being able to write and publish an effective press release is an essential skill. But how long should a press release be? What should you include? Who should you send it to? In this blog I talk about 7 foundations for making the biggest impact in your press release writing, reconnecting us with why press releases are such an invaluable aspect of your marketing strategy - not least because they are free!
1. Make sure your story is newsworthy
Before you even attempt to write a press release, think about the things you like to read about in the media. And ask yourself: Is there anything "new" in my story? Is there anything unusual or unexpected about it? Would this be of interest to anyone outside my business? Will anyone actually care? If the answer is “no” to the last question it is probably worth holding off sending out the press release until you have something newsworthy. Types of stories: New opening, New technology, Trends, Business growth / acquisition, An achievement or milestone, Fundraising, event, Celebrity endorsement/activity.
Include hard numbers, fill your press release with hard numbers that support the significance of your product or announcement. If you're claiming a trend, you need proof to back it up. Quantify your story and it will become much more compelling.
2.Write killer headlines
Most journalists get hundreds of emails every day, so it's a good idea to label email as ‘press release’ (stating the obvious I know!) and a short title to grab attention and encourage the journalist to read more remembering that most journalists/editors will change the title anyway. Don’t be too clever, say what it is. Journalists will spend a couple of moments looking at the heading and move on if it doesn’t catch their attention.
3.How to Format a Press Release
Keep the total length to one page of A4, ideally 300-400 words
Avoid using “I”, “we”, or “you”
Use a standard font, such as Calibri with a bold larger headline
Three or four short paragraphs and a couple of quotes
The first line should be a summary of the story (in no more than around 15-20 words) and read like the opening of a news story and must stand alone and grab their attention.
Imagine your story is being covered on a TV or radio, how would they introduce it?
"five Ws" (who, what, where, why and when) in the opening line of news stories
Have a ‘notes to editors’ section which can include background and additional information as well as contact information (critical!).
Include a low resolution images/photos with a link to a file share site where they can download a high resolution version.
4.Use quotes to provide insight, not information
Including quotes from people in your company can be helpful for journalists as it brings it to life. Quotes should be used to provide insight and opinion and sound like a real person said them. They definitely shouldn't be full of jargon or technical language. Including a good quote from someone in the company or close to the product/event can give a human element to the press release, as well as being a source of information in its own right.
5.Make the journos life easy
Editors are often short-staffed, so a well-written press release, with all the relevant information may be printed with very few changes. If you're not confident in your writing skills, consider outsourcing the job to a freelance writer. Make it grammatically flawless. Proof read your press release and let a few other people proofread it as well before sending it out. Even a single mistake can dissuade a reporter from taking you seriously.
6.How to issue and ‘sell in’
When you send a press release, it's a good idea to include a short outline of your idea (no more than a paragraph) and where you think it might fit in the publication you're pitching to. Paste your press release underneath, as a busy journalist may not bother to an open an attachment. It's fine to pitch ideas over the phone too. Just avoid obviously busy times (like deadline day on a newspaper or just before the news bulletin on a radio programme) and have an email pitch or press release to send if you're asked – most journalists will. If a journalist is interested in your story, they will generally get back to you within a day or so. But in a busy newsroom, stories can get missed, so don't be afraid to chase up pitches or press releases by phone or email. If you've chased a few times and you're not getting anywhere, it's probably safe to assume the journalist is not interested and offer it elsewhere. Be prepared to follow up!
7.Who to send it to
Decide who you want to reach and find out what they read (ask them eg via Survey Monkey!)
Gather contact details for relevant journalists and editors and set up your database (you can work it out) (e.g. news@ or features@ but a named email addresses are better)
Radio and TV producers and researchers can be harder to track down, but social networks like Twitter and LinkedIn can be useful. If it doubt, just ring up and ask.
Find out about lead times for publications
Add your story to your website and blog and promote via your social media.
For further information and help with marketing planning contact Victoria on 0115 903 3001 e-mail: [email protected]