It’s undoubtedly the most popular question we’re asked – how do you write the perfect press release?
Of course, you have to have the knack, otherwise everyone would work in PR! However, whether you’re a natural writer or not, and regardless of your length of experience, there are some simple steps you can follow to produce something worthy of great coverage.
We’re not going to tell you all our trade secrets of course. But hopefully these 12 tips will prove useful.
- Know your angle
What is your press release about? A new product or service? A company milestone? Your recruitment drive? Recent research findings? The list of content themes goes on and on. Before you start writing, know your angle and make sure it’s news, not just promotional puff!
- Know your audience
Talk in the tone that your target media, and their readers, will expect. Read the type of content they usually publish, avoid lingo people won’t understand, and ensure you include the facts they’ll want to read.
- Nail your title
It should be informative but attention grabbing. It needs to tell the journalist exactly what they can expect from the press release itself. Sometimes, depending on the subject, a level of intrigue and even playfulness can work. But clarity matters above all else. If your press release is region specific, include the location. If it’s industry specific ensure you cover that too. Some people leave titles to the end – find what works best for you.
- Remember: WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHY, WHEN, HOW
Make sure you cover everything and go digging for further information if there are gaps. The answers to these questions will give you everything you need for the press release itself. Sometimes, writing out all the facts out, in simple bullet points to begin with, helps you then pull the press release together.
- Features set scenes, press releases instantly inform
Whilst longer, detailed features can afford to set the scene, press releases must instantly inform, not least because they need to attract a journalist’s attention. A reporter will receive hundreds if not thousands of editorial submissions a day. They don’t have time to read every word of every press release to deduce if it contains truly interesting news. So, ensure your first paragraph packs a punch!
Summarise what the entire press release is about in one sentence/paragraph! Every paragraph thereafter should provide further detail.
- Find some evidence
Facts and figures don’t just add detail to your press release – they provide weight too. So, strip back subjective content that could be deemed biased or promotional, and include lots of stats or other forms of evidence that a journalist cannot ignore. For example:
The XYZ is a fantastic machine
Might look a little better as…
The XYZ is an energy-efficient machine designed to reduce fuel consumption.
But it would be even more impressive as…
Designed to reduce organisations’ carbon footprint, the energy-efficient XYZ machine consumes 50% less fuel than competitor equipment, saving operators an average of £180,000 per year. This has been made possible due to a newly-patented low torque drive which has taken four years to research and develop.
- Include a quote
It’s nice to read a more humanised element within a press release so try to include a relevant quote if possible. This could be from a managing director if an acquisition has been announced, a new client if a contract has been secured or a fundraising manager if money has been donated to a worthy cause. If you do include a quote or testimonial, it’s courteous to obtain the ‘author’s’ approval before using it.
- Don’t waffle
The general rule of thumb is to try to write no more than a single side of A4. Of course, some press releases require more detail, and/or the story may be so significant that it merits longer content. But usually one page is enough. Also, it must be said that, if your photograph does the talking, then the press release may be short and sweet – much more succinct than a side of A4. That’s ok too. In fact, photo stories make for great coverage as well.
- Pick a pic
On that note, try to source a professional, relevant and eye-catching photo that will augment the content of your press release and, if published, make your content stand out on the page. We’ve repeatedly been told by journalists that, if there’s only space for one final story, it’s often the photo that clinches it!
- Proof read
Read through your press release checking for grammatical errors, typos or clumsy word repetition. Make any necessary amends, before hitting send.
- Remember: The clock’s ticking
OK, so it’s not strictly related to writing the press release itself, but calculate when you want/need to send your press release to the media and work back from there. If the content will be subject to numerous approvals before issuing, start writing early. The last thing you want after all your hard work, is to miss an editorial deadline or a key business milestone.
- Ignore people who say you can’t start a sentence with ‘And’
There’s no further explanation needed. You just can! It’s not the 18th century. We often use words like ‘and’ to start a sentence and we haven’t been arrested by the press police just yet!
Still not convinced? Stick to what you’re good at and get the experts in!