Press releases are easy to hate. So many of them are poorly written, off target or way too long.
But if you’re a writer, press releases are a fact of work life.
In the years I’ve been a reporter, first at a daily newspaper and now as a freelance writer, I’ve probably gotten thousands of press releases, maybe tens of thousands. At the paper, I had stacks of them sitting on my desk. Today, press releases come in through email, Twitter or LinkedIn. No matter how they’re delivered, though, there are a few characteristics that separate good press releases from bad ones, and really great ones from the only so so.
Tips for Writing a Press Release
Here are my advice for writing a great press release:
1. The information is more important than the writing.
Explain exactly what the news is in the first paragraph – strike that, the first sentence. Don’t worry about making it sound pretty. That’s the reporter’s job.
2. Context is just as important as content.
Explain why an event, product or new hire is important to the company, organization or association making the announcement. The reporter has to do this anyway, so if you include the information, you’re giving her a head start.
3. Keep it short.
One page is perfect, or one computer screen so the reporter or writer doesn’t have to scroll. There are exceptions: quarterly earnings reports, for example. Forget flowery language. Stick to the facts. If a reporter needs more information, she’ll call.
4. Include a date and contact information.
This sounds like a no brainer, but you’d be amazed how many times I’ve researched a company online and found older press releases that don’t include a date, or PR contact name, email address or phone number. Are they trying to make it hard for reporters to follow up?
5. Know who you’re writing the release for.
The reporter for the local daily newspaper or hyperlocal news site will have a different take on your announcement than the staff writer at the trade publication that covers your industry. Slant your press releases accordingly. Understand the target audience of each publication you’re sending a release to and why your news is important to them. This is something reporters have to do every day, so make it easy for them. If you do, they’re more likely to want to work with you and not just now but the next time you email a pitch.
6. Make sure someone is available to take calls after a release goes out – and not just the PR staff.
It’s incredibly annoying to have a company make an announcement and then have the CEO, product manager or whoever was quoted in the release or is the point person on the news not be available. P.S. – Don’t call or email a reporter to make sure they got your release – they did.
7. Don’t be offended if a reporter isn’t interested.
What might be big news for your company might not be a big deal for that paper, website or trade publication. If you’re sending material to a reporter who regularly covers your company or organization, you can be sure they’re reading it. They’ll contact you if they’re interested. If they don’t, it doesn’t mean they’re not. They may save it for a trend piece or roundup they’ll be doing at some future date or to use as background when your company gets acquired, lands a huge contract or goes public.
The best PR people understand all this and act accordingly, and when they do, they make reporters’ jobs that much easier.
What are your press release tips?