The Lucky Seven for a Perfect Press Release
One of the most basic ways of reaching the trade media with information they can use in their online or printed publications is the press or news release. Press releases should be written in a journalistic news style and can be delivered to your media contacts by fax, e-mail, postal mail (not done much these days) or by an online P/R distribution service or wire. Following are 7 tips that will ensure your press release is written correctly – and actually gets read!
1. Follow a journalistic style
The editorial staff at trade publications will not given your release serious consideration unless you write in a journalistic style. Two key rules to follow: always double space and at all costs, avoid “marketing fluff” and promotional words that only distract from the main point of the release. If you follow all the tips I’m giving you in this release, you can be reasonably certain that it will reflect a journalistic style of writing.
When writing your headline, less is more. A good rule of thumb is that the headline should be ten words or less. Try and use the most concise words possible, yet make your headline as exciting as possible. Sometimes your release will get read – or will NOT get read, strictly on the basis of the title, so make it POP.
3. Say everything the editor needs to know in your first paragraph
The opening paragraph of the release is absolutely critical. A true journalist will always explain the “who, what, when, why, and how” of the story in the first paragraph. The first paragraph should also contain your “hook” or the “slant” you’re taking on the story that will be relevant to the target audience it is written for. Caution, though: remember that a news release is supposed to be “fact,” not a sales sheet.
4. Use an inverted pyramid rule for the second paragraph
Write the most important information and pertinent quotes at the beginning of the second paragraph – this is called the “inverted pyramid rule.” This is a technique used by journalists so that if editors have to cut anything out of the release, they can eliminate the ends of the paragraphs which are less critical to the story.
5. Tie everything up neatly in the closing paragraph
In the closing paragraph, you should again summarize the key points of the story. Be sure to include a name, phone number and email address for the individual who should be contacted for additional information.
6. Proof, proof, proof!
Re-read your release and make sure it is grammatically correct. Use spell check! (this is so easy and do you know how many people don’t use it?) If you have time, have another person proof the release. Writers tend to overlook their own errors. A second pair of eyes is great insurance.
7. Use all resources available to you to circulate your release
The most obvious way to get your release picked up by trade publications and online news sites is to send it directly to editorial staff for each individual publication or website and then follow up with them directly to “pitch” your story and influence them to use it. There are now also many online press release distribution websites that will send your release out all over the Internet – to trade related sites and also to sites such as Yahoo News. Some of those sites are free, others charge. Don’t forget to post the release on your OWN website first! You can also distribute the release to business associates and customers.
And finally, if you haven’t ever written a one paragraph press release, give it a try for a change. Sometimes it’s difficult to say everything we think needs to be said in a one or even two page release. However, in this age of rapid fire communication, and particularly if your news item does not require a lot of extraneous explanation, a short, one paragraph press release can actually be a powerful statement – both in its brevity and its surprise factor. A busy editor that picks up a press release that contains only one paragraph may be intrigued enough to actually read the entire paragraph. MOST people would read one simple paragraph. Sometimes less really can be more!