Are your press releases getting you the results you want?
If you’re constantly in search of more coverage for your clients, perhaps you should consider working on writing your press releases; they’re vital.
The news release, (or press release, as it is often called) is a tightly-crafted written statement distributed to targeted channels to deliver news information about an organization or event. Usually sent to members of the media, releases get the “press” ball rolling, and lead to follow-up between journalists and PR people that often lead to news stories and interviews.
If your releases are worded well and formatted according to AP style-standards, it is not uncommon for them to be published verbatim by editors of news publications. Most organizations also post their news releases on their company websites, and increasingly, via social media.
As you can see, press releases are an extremely important piece of the PR professional’s tool set. Today, I just wanted to offer a few tips that will enhance your writing for news releases.
Here are 7 tips to improve your news releases:
1) Before you even start writing, ask yourself: “Now why do we care again?” Anyone can write a press release. To write an effective press release, you need to understand basic newsworthiness. If it’s not crystal clear to a journalist why the reader should care after skimming a few lines, you can pretty much say goodbye to your chances of getting a story in the paper. Before pen goes to paper (or fingertips go to keys), give serious consideration to conveying your story’s newsworthiness.
2) Address the 5 Ws in the first sentence. Most people, especially journalists, don’t have the time these days to read novels. You need to explain the “who, what, where, when and why” in the very first paragraph, if you want your press release to be taken seriously. Get right to the point.
3) The “how” can wait until the next paragraph. While it’s important to tell us the five Ws upfront, equally important is holding off on the “how” until slightly later in the release. There is such a thing as information overload. Cramming the “who, what, where, when, why and how” will cause just that. Careful placement of separate thoughts and details will increase readability drastically, and journalists will thank you for making their job (read: sifting through a thousand poorly-worded press releases daily) easier.
4) Thou shalt provide hyperlinks. In this 21st century society, seeing is believing. You can say whatever you want, but on the Internet, oftentimes people won’t believe you unless they can follow a link to verify the information for themselves. Call it skepticism if you want, but it’s true, especially for members of the press. In a job environment where they are constantly bombarded with both news and “news” information, journalists can become jaded quickly, and cynical of all but the most obvious facts. How to avoid this affecting whether your story gets press? Easy: provide your readers with a link to back up your facts, and set your press release apart from the pack (According to experts, only 13% of PR professionals use links in releases).
5) Longer does not equal better. If you think that a longer copy increases your chances of getting press coverage, think again. You may think that those four extra paragraphs adds more “meat and potatoes” to your press release, but in actuality it’s just more lines for a tired journalist to skip. In 2010, a ten-paragraph press release is really just a paragraph or two that people will read, and the rest will be either skimmed or skipped, depending on your luck that day. Plainly put: when it comes to press releases, concision is your best friend. Just give us the necessary details.
6) Formatting matters. Just because you’re got all the key info into your press release doesn’t mean it’s necessarily ready to go out yet. Before you send that bad boy out, make sure your release follows standard formatting conventions. If you don’t, journalists are is likely to ignore your precious work. Spacing, margins, and all other formatting conventions do matter, so use them wisely.
7) Read your copy aloud. No really, do it. You might think you’re invincible when it comes to typos, but I promise that one good read-through aloud of your next press release will convince you otherwise. There’s only so much that Microsoft Word will catch. Eventually a “to,” where you actually meant to type “too,” for example, will slip through the cracks. If you want to avoid such a careless mistake, make sure to leave time before your deadline to read through your copy out loud.
So these are my seven tips for improving your press releases in 2011. If you’re able to work some of these tips into your writing, your writing will have a more polished, professional feel, and you’ll have a better chance of getting coverage for your stories.
And now it’s your turn…
What do you think? Agree? Disagree? Share a tip for writing better press releases below.