Writing your first few press releases can be a little tricky, especially if you’re new to the concept. One little mistake such as a weak headline or a simple typo can turn the reader off immediately. Well-written press releases, however, can catch the attention of the media, resulting in free, positive press for your business.
Essentials for writing a great press release
Last time, we talked about the importance of a good headline. And it bears repeating once more: whatever you do, do your best to write a catchy headline that will stand out. At the same time, your headline should briefly summarize the story that lies ahead in the body of the press release.
Your goal is to quickly hook the editor into your potential story, and let him or her easily draw the connection between your news and their intended audience. Your press release is the outlet you will use to convince them why they should dedicate free editorial space to you.
Dozens of press releases stream into a newsroom every day. Most of them end up in the trash. You might have a great story, but it won’t get noticed if it’s buried deep in the last paragraph. So make your point early on…and by all means, please make sure the information you’re sending in the press release is truly newsworthy. If the editor is bored or uninterested, you’re finished.
Communicate the basics
Be clear in the language you choose. Avoid using showy language. This is not a piece of creative writing. Instead, you should deal strictly with the news and the facts. The editor and his team will write the final story, not you.
In the body of your press release, include the who, what, when, where, why, and how of your news. A few points to cover:
- What is the actual news?
- Why is it important?
- Feature the people, products, and other critical points related to the news. (You may even want to quote one or two people involved in the story.)
- What is the purpose behind this information?
- Lastly, include information about your company – the source of the news. Include all pertinent contact information such as your email, website, fax, and any phone numbers. If your story is newsworthy, they will want to talk with you.
As you draft your press release, keep in mind that editors are overworked and understaffed. If you can make life easier for them, you’re more likely to get coverage. Do your best not to waste the editor’s time with unnecessary fluff—but do tell a good story.
If the idea of writing a press release intimidates you, take a little time to search for examples and templates online. There are many marketing websites that will help you format your press release step-by-step.
Get your press release into the right hands
It’s not enough to just write a great press release. You have to get it into the right hands. If you conduct business within a limited geographic area, your best bet is to target your local and regional publications and television and radio stations. On the other hand, if your business is national or international in scope, you’ll need to throw a wider net for greater reach to journalists worldwide.
Companies who do business nationally and internationally accomplish this by outsourcing their PR work to online services such as PR Web or eReleases. Here’s how it works: You write a brief announcement about your organization, your new product, or whatever news you want to convey, and the PR company will work on writing the release and distributing it on major news sites and search engines. Meanwhile, you sit back and wait for the editors and journalists to make contact directly with you. These online service companies are easy to use, but are usually cost prohibitive for smaller businesses with lean marketing budgets.
If you’re going to distribute your own press release, create your own media list. Update your list periodically for future reference. Make notes with editor’s names, contact preferences, and any other pertinent information that may help you down the road. There’s no reason to always be reinventing the wheel – a well-developed media list will work for you time and time again.
Go the extra mile
The more work you can do for the media, the more likely it is your press release will get noticed. The little things matter: If you can manage to address your press release to a specific editor, by name, you’ve made an excellent start at getting noticed and being taken seriously. Take a little time to do your homework before shipping off your press release; find out if the editor prefers to get press releases by email, fax, or postal mail. It could pay off in big dividends of free press.
Mind your manners
Within media circles, it’s considered a no-no to send the same press release to several editors within the same publication. Even if you’ve written the perfect press release, this strategy probably wouldn’t work anyway. A newsworthy story that is appropriate for the lifestyles page wouldn’t fit on the sports page or the city beat.
PR works … but it’s just one part of a multi-component marketing strategy. A newspaper story may not get the same immediate response as a 50% off coupon, but you’ll raise the awareness of your business. Being mentioned in the media also gives you instant credibility. Make the most of media mentions; frame articles that are published about your business and hang them in your office or store where everyone can see them.
Next time: How to create news that’s worthy of media coverage.