Writing a press release takes time. Writing a half-way decent one to grab the attention of the word worn deadline weary journalist requires time, thought, a strategy, and a steadfast desire to use a clear and concise format devoid of tempting flowery adjectives.
TEN POINTS TO USE WHEN WRITING A PRESS RELEASE
1. Grab Attention
Grab your reader’s attention by writing a compelling motivating headline, summary, and lead paragraph.
You want the reader to read more.
2. What’s the Hook?
Pick a hook, an angle and stick to it.
Don’t dilute your key message with nice to have but not important information.
3. Professional Writing Please
Ensure your release is well written, and free of spelling and grammar mistakes. Many journalists, and media types are professional and well-trained writers, or at least are very savvy with the written and spoken word. Sloppy error riddled writing is destined for file 13, or the delete button.
On that note, don’t forget to double-check your email subject line for spelling mistakes.
4. Keep the Format Simple, Clear and Concise
I often use the format below, and while searching for a company to distribute my releases in the USA I came across the services of PRWeb. They have a brilliant press release guideline, it’s a truly valuable resource containing all you need to know about formatting and writing a press release (download option at end of this post).
Here’s a brief overview of the PRWeb format guidelines to use when writing a press release:
A short attention grabbing snapshot of the information to be conveyed. It should capture the reader’s attention and inspire them to continue reading.
A headline is not the place for a sales pitch or advertisement.
Contains keywords people are likely to use when conducting an online search.
When writing your headline take note of its length. Search engines have specific headline limits of what they will display.
Please use Title Case – Not Caps. No one likes to be yelled at.
The summary generally follows the headline, and is a short snapshot of the information contained within the release. This is a good time and place to mention you, and or your company.
**Dateline and Lead Paragraph
The dateline runs before the lead paragraph, and identifies the city, state, day, month and year the release was generated.
The lead paragraph focuses on the key message told in a clear and concise tone. It must grab the reader’s attention and at the very least answer the six questions they will ask of Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How.
This is your time to tell your story in an interesting, neutral and objective way. Keep in mind you are writing a press release, and not an advertisement or sales pitch.
Defined as “A unit of writing to be used over and over again without change” the boilerplate statement follows the body copy and could incorporate an “About You” or “About Your Company” statement.
It should also include the important people, services, or details outlined in the release.
Now you’ve got the reader’s attention of the media make sure they can contact you in more than one way. Include your full name, company name, website address, phone number, and email address (this is the only place to add your email address).
5. Use Short Paragraphs
Ideally try to keep your paragraphs short and sassy in length.
As a rule of thumb PR Web recommends limiting each paragraph to three to four lines.
6. Press Release Length
My rule of thumb is to keep my press releases contained to one page.
PR Web suggests sticking to the standard length of 300 to 800 words.
7. Make sure your release is informative, relevant, and timely
Your release should contain information that is interesting enough to be reported on. There’s a host of reason why you should write, and distribute a press release….whatever you do resist the urge of writing a release for the sake of writing a release!
Has your book rocketed up the best-seller list?
Have you been awarded a prestigious writing prize?
Have you written multiple best seller e-books?
Is the subject relevant, timely, and of interest to readers?
Is this your first e-book, or are you introducing a new product or service?
8. Invest Time in Building Your Media List
Invest time to build and target your media list to ensure your release lands in front of people interested in receiving the news you have to share.
9. Target Your Message
A finance editor most likely won’t have the time, need or desire to open, let alone read a press release on the latest romance e-book you’ve written. A Life Style Editor, an avid blogger of romance e-books, or a weekly woman’s magazine will be far more interested.
After, and only after you’ve sent your release to the media if its appropriate post your release on your own social media sites.
10. Follow Up
If you’ve targeted your media list don’t be afraid to make a follow-up call, or send an email to the relevant journalist/person to gauge their interest, and hopefully you’ll then have the opportunity to give a more detailed pitch.
What’s the worst that can happen? You get a “sorry it’s not for us” response, but at least you’ve established a contact to pitch other story ideas you many have.
Content makes up the daily dose of the news, stories, and material we listen to, watch, and read. People and events create the content media use to write, produce, voice, edit, and publish their stories.
It’s the media’s job to report on news relevant to their audience.
A well written and formatted press release is a tried and true way of hooking the media’s attention, and supplementing their diet with juicy newsworthy content.
While working in PR and Marketing for Cirque du Soleil writing press releases was an integral part of my job, as was the distribution, and having access to people with the right contacts to secure media coverage. Whether you are working for a big company, or are like me – a one person indie writer, editor, and publisher – the same principles apply when writing and distributing press releases.
Without the right contacts to distribute my press releases announcing the release of my two e-books, Minnie Moo The Extraordinary Adventures of an Ordinary Cat, and Love in the Vines, in the States I called in the experts.
After an extensive online search I decided to use a news release company called PRWeb. Unfortunately this isn’t a freebie service, and thankfully I was happy with their cost structure, reach, results, and reporting. I highly recommend reading The PRWEB Writing Great Online News Release – it’s a superb guideline and tool to use.
Author’s Note: Excerpts from The PRWEB Writing Great Online News Release have been used in this blog.