What is a press release?  I feel like sometimes when ‘press release’ is mentioned people aren’t quite sure what it is or what it does.

The most straightforward way I find of explaining a press release is that it’s not a news story, it’s a communication that helps journalists decide whether or not they want to cover your story.

Your press release could be about a contract win, a launch, something different you’re doing or a whole host of other things, but…

1.) My first tip is before putting pen to paper (fingers to keyboard) make sure its newsworthy.  Obvious perhaps, but as a business you need to be objective – it might be interesting to you but would anyone else care?  Ask yourself, is there anything new in what I’m telling and will it be something the audience of the publication or news outlet I’m sending it to be interested in?  With regards the second point, if you’re not sure then read, watch, listen to where you’d like your story to appear to see the kind of news they do cover.  If you’re using a PR rep then it’s part of their job to be honest with you and advise you if your story is newsworthy.  If it’s not they should be able to suggest an alternative angle that will be, and if all else fails, abandon that story and look for a new one.  The reason I’m hammering this point home is because it doesn’t matter how well written your press release is, if it’s not newsworthy the journalist will hit delete when it pops into their inbox.

2.) My second tip is make sure your headline is strong.  For it to be strong it doesn’t have to be clever, in fact I suggest you don’t try to make it clever, instead just keep it clear and concise.

There’s two ways to approach a headline – write it first or write it last.  Both are equally fine to do.  Some find that writing the headline first makes them write what comes next in a much more focused manner.  However, others who struggle with writing headlines may find it easier to write the main body of the press release first because the headline will then become apparent.

3.)  Spend time getting your opening paragraph right.  This is perhaps the most important section of the press release because other than the headline, it’s what determines if the journalist reads on.  Also, if the press release is used journalists tend to cut from the bottom up, so the most important information and what you want to ensure appears in any coverage should be in that top paragraph.  A good test of whether your first paragraph is right is that it should be able to stand alone.  If someone only read that one paragraph they would understand in basic terms what the story is about.

Now that’s not to say cram everything into that top paragraph because on average it should only be a couple of sentences long.

If you’re struggling to understand how to fit everything into that top paragraph without waffling, watch or listen to a newsreader’s intro to a story.  That’s essentially what the top paragraph of a press release should be.

4.) Use quotes wisely.  The standard structure of a press release includes a quote, usually from someone within the business.  You want to make sure that your quote is adding something to the release, it should provide an insight and not just reiterate what’s already been said in paragraphs 1, 2 and 3.  Also, your quote shouldn’t sound like it’s been written by your PR person, even if it has been.  If you’re working closely with your PR person or agency this shouldn’t be a problem because they will not only have a good understanding of the company and subject matter of the press release, but also the values of the company and its tone of voice, which help ensure the quote is authentic, strong and not vanilla.

5.) My final tip is researching the publications, radio stations, tv programme that you’re aiming to get coverage in.  Really understand what kind of things they cover, who the journalists are, who covers what and the timeframes, deadline and publication dates that they work to.  If you spend time getting to grips with these things, rather than just blanket issuing your press release and hoping for the best, then writing your press release should be a lot easier and targeted and hopefully the end result will be better uptake of the release.  Also what you should have is not just coverage, but coverage in the right place, so its adding value to your business by driving awareness, engagement and leads.

For help with your press release give us a shout and come in for a coffee and a chat.

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