Five Tips for Writing a Great Press Release
It’s the question we get asked the most – what makes a good press release? The short answer is that there is no one size fits all approach to writing a press release, but we can share a few tips to make sure that yours is the best it can be.
1) Try to keep your headline around eight words long (or under 50 characters)
This is your one shot to grab the attention of a time pressed journalist. Is your product, service or event the first of its kind? The fastest? The tallest? Whatever your USP make sure that’s right up the top. Be creative, puns are good, just make sure you land your message in one punch as it’s your best chance to entice your recipient to read on. Tip: you don’t always need to mention your company name in the headline either, particularly if you’re writing about a small or new company that not many have heard of. Some might argue that if your headline is relying on the name of the company, is it a strong enough story? Example one: Blondies’ Kitchen milk and cookie pop up arrives at Old Street Example two: First New York style milk and cookie popup comes to London Both are perfectly fine headlines. But the second example is definitely more engaging. If you really are struggling to fit it into one headline then a second deck, or sub headline, is very acceptable.
2) Get all the important information into your intro
Quite simply try to answer each of these questions in about two sentences: Who? What? Why? When? Where? How? A journalist needs to know all the most important information first, they might not have time to read the entire press release. Example: Baking duo Blondies’ Kitchen is to open London’s first New York style milk and cookie popup. Throughout the month of October, commuters passing through Old Street Station can pick up a delicious fresh baked premium cookie and speciality milk combo. There are many ways to say the above, but if you read no more of the press release, you would have fully understood what the story is about at this point. Anything after this is just additional detail.
3) Less is more
Always. Did I mention that journalists are really really busy? Don’t feel pressured to write pages and pages – this is not an academic essay. If you can get the whole story across in just a few paragraphs, and ideally no more than one side of A4, then you have probably nailed a pretty good press release. Go back and check what you’ve written, is it all really relevant to this story? Cut out any repetition or anything that’s going off on a tangent.
4) Quote of the day
A quote is a great place to communicate anything that reveals the business reason behind something. It is also acceptable to put something more opinionated into the quote too. But if yours is a straight launch, never ever start with “I am delighted…”. This is too clichéd and doesn’t sound believable. Write down what you’d actually say if you were talking to someone and go from there and try to get your personality into the quote. But if you’re really stuck this formula can often help get you started: Said Joe Bloggs, founder of Umbrellas4U: “[Outline the problem] For years British people get soaking wet when they go out in the rain. [Outline the solution] Our new umbrellas provide cover from the elements with their waterproof awning, telescopic design and ergonomic handle. [Explain the benefit] Now everyone can go outside in all weathers, staying dry indoors is a thing of the past.” One quote is usually enough. It can be tempting to quote more than one person in a press release to keep the bosses happy. However, is extremely rare for more than one quote from a single press release to be used, unless it’s vital to the story e.g. a merger or partnership announcement. If you do cite two quotes put the most important one first.
5) Tone and register
Use plain English. I’ll say it again, use plain English. No jargon. Nothing too formal. Just plain English that can be understood by as many people as possible. Any colloquialisms or regional humour might get lost if the journalist isn’t from your neck of the woods (see what I did there?). It goes without saying that your spelling and grammar must be perfect. Get a friend to proof read it for you. And avoid too many flowery adjectives or adverbs – you really just want to state the facts in a clear, concise and accurate way. If a journalists decides to write up your story, they will use their expertise to tell the story in a way that they know their readers will enjoy.
There are many other tips for writing a great press release, but the five points above should help you avoid some of the common pitfalls. Depending on the nature of your story and the title you are pitching to, there will always be exceptions to these.
Next week we will follow up with five tips for selling in, or pitching your press release to a journalist.
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