Effective Press ReleasesMay 10th 2011 Sally Ormond copywriter, copywriting tips, freelance copywriter, Press releases
What’s the golden rule when it comes to writing press releases?
DO NOT USE THEM TO SELL.
A press release is all about providing the reader with news. If you want to place an advert pay for it like everyone else.
But because it’s not paid for, your press release has to be top notch if you want to get it published.
Every newspaper and magazine editor is looking for genuine news that their readers are going to want to hear about. But it also has to fit the style and tone of their publication.
That all sounds like a lot of hard work and rather a hit and miss affair which is why many businesses shy away from issuing releases. But there are a number of benefits to be had so it’s well worth giving it a go.
Benefits of press releases
First off, they are relatively cheap to produce. Regardless of whether you write them in-house of hire a professional copywriter, they are a cost effective way of promoting your company.
Plus, because they appear as an editorial piece rather than an in your face advert, they’re more likely to read and viewed as being independent from your company and therefore will carry more weight.
Of course, there always has to be a downside to balance the positives:
The downside of a press release
When you write articles for the web, your own web copy, blogs and brochures, you have ultimate control over the content.
But when writing press releases you relinquish that control once it’s been sent to the editor. Just because you’ve written a 2 page release doesn’t mean there’ll be room for it in its entirety within the publication. The editor may have to truncate it and may not carry as prominent a position as you’d like.
The best way to use a press release
Your press release can be used for many purposes, such as announcing:
- A new website
- A new product or service
- A forthcoming event
- Charity work
- Community involvement
But whatever the reason for your release, the subject has to be relevant to your audience if you want it to be accepted and published. That means doing research into the publications you are targeting.
The easy way to get your press release ignored
This may seem an odd thing to be including in this post, but if you do any of the following your press release will be ignored and consigned to the rubbish bin:
- Use a bad subject line in your email such as Press release.
- Using a bad headline.
- Filling it with waffle so it takes an age to get to the real news.
- Writing a disguised advert. Editors aren’t stupid, they will spot it.
- Using sloppy English, dodgy spelling and atrocious grammar.
- Fill it with flowery language, repetitions, waffle and adjectives galore.
Now find out how to get your press release published
OK, we’ve seen what not to do, so now on to what you should do.
Take a look at your story, what makes it interesting? Can you use a local angle to create a hook to grab your readers’ attention thereby making it more relevant to them.
Basically, what that boils down to is using the good old fashioned Who? What? Where? When? Why? and How? in your opening paragraph.
Finally, it’s always a good idea to include the word count, release date, contact details, brief company profile (in the notes at the end), notes for the editor and any photo opportunities.
Also make sure you write in the third person and be concise without using jargon.
Structuring your press release
Here’s a quick run down on how you should structure your release:
1. Write Press release at the top of your page.
2. Write the date either as 7th November 2010 – For immediate release, or 7th November 2010 – 12.00 15th November 2010.
The first shows it can be used immediately, the second shows it must not be used until the specified time and date.
3. Next, your headline should be eye-catching and should grab the editor’s attention straight away.
You can also use a sub heading to flesh out more of the story.
4. The first paragraph is critical and must dive straight into your story. Forget hype and adopt a journalistic tone which sticks to the facts.
5. The second paragraph gives supporting evidence but must still remain focused.
6. The third paragraph is the place for quotes that are relevant to the story. But make sure you have permission to use them.
7. Your final paragraph is your conclusion, briefly explaining the link between the story and your company.
8. Finish with ‘Ends’ or ###
9. Finally add notes for editors and contact details.
That simple 9 point list gives you the general outline for your press release.
Just remember, if you want to be successful it must be about genuine news and not a disguised advert and shouldn’t overly promote your company.
Done correctly, press releases can generate a lot of interest in your company; done badly and they’ll only ever see the recycling bin in the editors office.