Press Release Writing 101
Crafting a press release is different from writing a news story.
Editors are constantly bombarded with hundreds of press releases each week. With tight deadlines and changing schedules, it’s no wonder that they are not able to read every press release that drops into their inbox.
So how can we grab their attention?
When it comes to writing a good press release, it helps to remember two simple rules:
(1) Write well and
(2) Think like an editor!
A press release has many of the elements of a news story, but it needs to be considerably shorter. Long-winded press releases get deleted. More and to the point – a press release has to portray the client in the best light. Reporters are used to quoting people verbatim. A good public relations executive learns how to pick and shape the quotes to make his client shine. Public relations practitioners also have to master the art of pitch writing. Many public relations reps are finding that harried reporters do not have the time to wade through a press release. They just want the nugget of the story, and they will take it from there.
Editors have high expectations when it comes to what is ‘news worthy’ and what is ‘interesting’. When it comes to piquing the interest of the media, it is crucial to find out before hand, what is current and relevant to the target readers.
So before you even you hit the keys on your computer, stop and ask yourself this, “If I were a harassed editor with a tight, busy schedule, would I be interested enough to give this press release another look over?” With these things in mind, hopefully, the answer is a resounding YES!
Press releases should preferably be kept to two pages to sufficiently get the message across to sustain the interest of the editor.
Get Down to the Basics!
The components of a good press release should include, and in this order:
General Information: Date, editor’s details, urgency (for immediate release), the number of pages you have, and most importantly, your contact details.
Heading: This may be the hardest part of writing a press release because the heading should immediately capture the eye of the editor. The heading should be simple and attention grabbing.
Content: Your content should consist of about four paragraphs. A summary of the 5 W’s in the (who, when, what, where, why) and other important key points in the first paragraph, further details of the story on the second, relevant quotes from the story in the third paragraph, and extra relevant information in the last. A useful tip to remember when writing a press release is the inverted pyramid – you start off with the most to the least important information.
Other information you may want include with your press release would be relevant fact sheets, backgroun information and photos. If your press release concerns a new product, it is always good to send in a sample if possible – let’s face it, everyone loves getting free stuff, but make sure you don’t go over the top, or you may be seen as bribing the editor – which could get you in a lot of trouble. Do follow up with the editor a few days after the sending the press release to check if it reached the right channels.
Remember – to craft a killer press release, write well, think like an editor, and keep your press releases simple, concise and straight to the point.