The key to writing a good press release is grabbing attention in the top line. This is what we in the industry call the ‘intro’ – and it’s the most important part of any press release or news story.
Most journalists and bloggers won’t have time to read down into the 15th paragraph to find the interesting bit – so you have to hit them with it straight away.
The best way to think of it is like this: how would you tell the story to your mates in the pub? You would sum it up in the most simple, interesting and (hopefully) amusing way possible.
You wouldn’t load your opening line with namechecks or unnecessary product placement plugs – you would simply say it as it was.
The next few lines then need to be back up that intro with more facts, figures and details. Just like you would if you were talking to a friend.
Think about the ‘USP’ of what you are trying to say. Is it the biggest, the best, the first in your industry sector? Is it a significant innovation or is it linked to a current news event? If so, make sure it goes in the into. Maybe you have a unique or amazing image or video to accompany your press release. If so, write the copy to reflect that so you are ‘advertising’ that to the reader.
Remember, the journalist or blogger you are targeting will probably have seen dozens of press releases from your industry sector that day. So while your release is obviously of interest to you, it may not be to them. That’s why you have to grab them with your USP.
Try and tailor your content to suit the target market you are aiming at. For example, if you’re sending a release to a local newspaper, put the place name in the intro: ‘An Exeter call centre is to create hundreds of new jobs after landing a multi-million pound contract.’
Similarly, if it’s an industry journal, make sure you make it clear that this release relates to that sector.
All publications appreciate a good picture, whether it is a newspapers, magazine, website or blog. A strong image will often set your release apart from everyone else’s – so don’t be shy to paste it into the top of the release rather than attach it (but only if it’s really good).
Don’t be tempted to cram too much branding into your press release. We know that’s why you’re doing it, but journalists hate to think they are simply helping to plug your product or service.
However, they are always happy to write an interesting and relevant story and will accept a bit of branding if the content is strong enough.
Obviously, if you’re announcing a new contract or business win then it can’t be avoided – but don’t overdo it.
The ideal place for a company plug is in the third or fourth paragraph, or perhaps when you introduce some quotes from a company spokesperson.
Always include quotes in your press release. Pretty much all stories used in print or online will include at least one quote, no matter how short the text is.
And remember, don’t just cram your quotes full of blatant plugs for the business – make them relevant to the intro. Journalists will be looking for some form of commentary on the facts of the story.
Then perhaps you can allow yourself to slip in a key message. Perhaps explaining why you’ve won this particular contract because of your unique position in the marketplace.
And always quote a person by name and title rather than a spokesperson. It sounds more authoritative and personal.
With all the fun and games of a snappy intro and quotes, you can easily forget to cover the basics.
It’s an old journalistic adage, but make sure you include who, what, where, when, why and how.
And while we’re on the subject – make sure you spell check, double spell check and read everything through several times to make sure it is grammatically correct.
Silly mistakes look unprofessional and damage your credibility. If possible, always get someone else to read it through as you can often become blind to your own mistakes.
Always remember to include contact details at the bottom of your release so journalists can easily contact you for more information. Just a name, phone number and email address will suffice.