A poorly written press release can be what stands between getting press and not getting press. It’s important to communicate your news angle clearly and draft your press release professionally – both in content and format. Here, Brio PR’s former journalist Julia Starkey shares her top 5 tips for writing press releases that will have a better chance at grabbing the attention of time-poor, but news-hungry journalists.
1. Write like a Journalist
Your lead sentence should aim to get across your story angle, start answering the “who, what, when, why and how” and be squeezed into one sentence of about 28 words. Sounds difficult right? Once you know this formula, it’s actually quite fun (in a challenging way!) to write, and rewrite, to produce an intro that’s punchy. If your press release is written in a style and language that’s natural to a journalist, you’ll have better chance of your content getting reproduced (sometimes verbatim!).
2. Develop a Newsworthy Angle
Sometimes businesses naturally think their press release is newsworthy; but in fact, depending on which media you’re targeting, it may not be newsworthy at all. A health-related story will have better chance of getting a run in a health industry title, than say a local paper. That being said, a quick rewrite of your press release with a localised angle may just grab the attention of the local news journalist. Refer to some of the basics when coming up with your news angle: timeliness, proximity, and human interest.
3. Craft each Release per Media Outlet or Journalist
If you’ve spent the good few hours it can take to write a press release, don’t take shortcuts and blast an identical press release to multiple media outlets and journalists. Research the specific journalist who covers the round your news item best fits, i.e. community news, health and beauty, business or entertainment. This information is generally found in the credit box of the title, or can be located on the media outlet’s website. Alternatively, a quick phone call to obtain the best contact details could be what it takes to get your press release under the news-hungry nose of the right journalist.
4. Format the Press Release Professionally
Journalists are time-poor and work to tight deadlines, therefore a press release that contains the essential information has the best chance of getting picked up by the media. Content wise, remember to keep your press release simple and newsworthy. Include a striking headline, a dateline, and contact details. Should your topic require additional background information, facts, statistics or a biography, include this in a paragraph labelled “Background Information” at the end of the press release. Stylistically, keep the press release between one to two pages. Include “FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE” at the top left hand corner. However, if you wish to circulate a release with date-sensitive material, be sure to include “STRICTLY EMBARGOED UNTIL [DATE]”. And finally, a press release that contains images (emailed or provided on disc) is advantageous. If your press release is about a product, why not include a sample in the post; or if your press release is about a service, offer an invitation for the journalist to try the service and review it.
5. Elect a Media Liaison Contact
Your press release must contain a contact person who the media can call upon. If you’re looking after your own business’s PR, and do not have a professional PR Practitioner, you’ll need to elect a contact person who is skilled at answering media requests. These requests may be anything from lining up an interview, issuing photographs, to providing additional information. Ensure your elected contact is briefed on the basics of what is public and non-public company knowledge. Include detailed contact information in bold at the end of the press release.
If you found these tips helpful, and would like to uncover ways to generate brand awareness through PR or marketing activities, email Julia Starkey or call 1800 8710 8710.