Press releases are key tools in any PR programme, so it’s vital to write them well. Good press releases can get you noticed, understood and written about; poorly-written releases will, at best, be ignored, but can also erode your credibility. With many journalists receiving literally hundreds of press releases a day, you owe it to them and yourself to do the job well.
Here are 80:20 Communications’ 10 top tips for writing a press release:
1. Make sure it contains news – something new, fresh and different. Old, warmed-over facts or brochure/advertising copy have no place in a press release.
2. Keep it brief. You have a limited window to grab the attention of readers. If you can’t explain your news in two pages or less, you’ve lost them already. If you need extra space, include some Notes to Editors at the end, but don’t pad out your main story with non-news facts.
3. Have an angle. Explain why your news matters to others. Focus on the benefits or implications for the outside world, not what it means for you. Include superlatives where possible and justified (e.g. ‘…the world’s first/fastest/most expensive…’).
4. Be factual. It’s for others to say if your news is ‘fantastic’. Your press release should eschew self-congratulation and focus on properly-checked facts. If your claims don’t stand up, your credibility is blown.
5. Have a good headline. Grab the reader’s attention with a punchy start. And yet, don’t lose touch with your story – overly-clever headlines sometimes fail to reflect what follows. Keep it short (one line) and simple.
6. Have a killer first paragraph. This is the most crucial bit, where you put the best polish on your news. Do a good job, and the reader may continue down the page. If in doubt, stick to the 5W formula, answering ‘Who?’, ‘What?’, ‘Where?’, ‘When?’ and ‘Why?’, the questions any journalist would ask. Limit yourself to two sentences, but aim to do it in one.
7. Include usable quotes. A well-written quote is the part of your release most likely to be used by a journalist. Therefore, keep it short and ensure it reflects your main message to readers.
8. Write well. Little annoys journalists more than sloppily-written, error-strewn press releases. If you want them to publish your news, have the courtesy to match their standards. Avoid jargon at all times and stick to plain English. Especially today, when journalists are busier than ever, badly-written press releases go straight into the bin.
9. Date your news. A small but crucial fact – no media outlet wants to run out-of-date stories. Ensure the date is clearly shown at the top of your press release.
10. Provide a contact. If you’ve covered points 1 – 9 correctly, you’ll hopefully have created some interest. The next thing a journalist will do is to speak to you on the phone. Make sure to include a contact name and number that can be used at short notice.
Finally, put the coffee on and wait for the coverage to roll in.