Media coverage can add money to your bottom line. A recent study of high-flying stocks found that positive media coverage drove returns up 2.6% a year.
So there’s value in a well-timed and well-written press release and the media coverage it will attract.
But if you’ve unfamiliar with the press release format or are unfamiliar with how to write a press release, the medium might, at first, seem daunting.
Fear not. The ubiquitous press release hasn’t faded away like the fax machine or the CD-ROM because it still works.
The press release is a simple way to signal to journalists, trade groups, and customers that you are open for business or have an exciting product to offer.
In the following article, we’ll break down how to write a killer press release and why it can serve as an important communication tool for your business.
When Do You Need a Press Release?
Your press release should say something about the moment. You are trying to convey to journalists or bloggers something they couldn’t find by just looking at the “About Us” section of your website.
In short, a press release is a news item about your company, and it should be used to capture the public’s attention and imagination. You’ll want to send out a well-crafted press release when you have positive news about your business, an event you sponsored, or even your client.
For your purposes, a press release is a news story, and you should let some journalistic principles help you craft the release.
Also, journalists are extremely busy, and the more information you can give them in a format that’s easy to understand, the more likely they are to use your press release in their news coverage.
Some examples of when you may want to send out a press release include:
- Starting or expanding your business
- Launching a new product
- Or announcing a new hire
One other time you may find you’ll need a press release is during a crisis or handling some bad news. This is a trickier proposition. You may want to consult a professional marketing and management group or a lawyer when dealing with an especially sticky or potentially embarrassing incident.
However, even if you send out a crisis management-type email, the following writing rules will still help you craft your response.
Before You Write Gather Your Pieces
Writing a press release is often easiest when you have all the components of a good one at hand before you start writing.
Items you’ll want to gather include dates and times, addresses, photos, maps, technical specs, facts and figures, and any pertinent quotes.
Remember, the point of the press release is not only to get people exciting about your event or product but also to answer many of their questions.
By having the information assembled before you write, you can focus on crafting the press release and not searching. The whole process will work better if you focus on one step at a time.
That said, if you’re missing some parts, don’t sweat it. As long as you know that the pieces you need are coming, you can still get started.
One area you don’t want to skimp on is your visuals.
Sometimes the pictures or videos you shoot to accompany your press release are more valuable than the words in the release itself. If you’re not great with a camera, find or hire someone who is. These photos could find themselves on the homepage of a popular website or the local newscast, making sure the images are arresting, in focus, and exciting.
If you are planning an event, include a map with key details of your venue — especially parking. Also, include a schedule for the event so people know when and where things are happening.
Time to Write
Before you start crafting your release, check out a few templates or eReleases to get a sense of how you’ll utilize the format.
Most press releases generally follow a standard template:
- Contact Info
- The Body
- Company info
- Conclusion or sign off
The first two items are self-explanatory. The logo and contact info are there to instantly allow the customer or journalist to know who and what they are dealing with and easily get in touch for more information.
The headline, although above the introduction and body, is usually written last. Many a clever headline has been written before the press release, only to not quite fit when all was said and done.
When you do write it remember to keep the headline short and punchy and use an action verb. Don’t use snoozer words like “continues” or “area” anything!
The dateline should be the event or business headquarters’ city in all capital letters followed by a dash (i.e., NEW YORK CITY —).
The introduction is arguably the most important part of your release. It needs to hook the readers’ attention immediately without sounding like a cliche. Try using a question, a statement, or an interesting fact to draw the reader in.
Cover the News
For the body of your release, keep to the inverted pyramid style of writing. Cover the who, what, why, when, and how. Remember, each body paragraph should include the main idea and supporting details.
Great supporting details could include examples, anecdotes, and quotations from relevant company officials or experts in your field.
At the end of your release, include pertinent details about your company that journalists might ask as follow-up questions. Include the size or number of people employed at your company or areas of expertise and recognition.
Try to sign off with a call to action that makes journalists or customers want to find out more.
Remember to write in short declarative sentences and to avoid repetition. Also, unless you are a comedian, keep humor down to a minimum.
Humor is really tough to pull off, and it can often come off wrong.
Also, when you put your release together, remember to play the art prominently. You may want to hold a few good images back for journalists you want to cultivate a relationship with.
Lastly, make sure you put your release through multiple edits. You won’t get a chance to pull it back once you hit send, and the last thing you want to see is a news story with the term “sic” in it.
And when you get criticism, take it in stride and make the necessary changes without ego. You’ll thank yourself and your editor later.
Timing Is Crucial
As you’ve read above, you don’t have to pull your hair out writing a good press release, but you do need to watch the clock. Make sure that your press release is timed with or before the official release of your product.
You want to make sure that you capture your hardworking employees’ excitement as they launch your event or tout your new hire.
Ensure that you are ready to go before you miss out on drawing that journalist or blogger in a timely manner.
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