Writing press releases is a specific and useful skill – here’s how to master it
Your company has done something that people will want to know about. How do you best shout it from the rooftops? You could advertise externally, or write about it on your platform.
Somewhere in the grey area between advertising and content marketing lies the humble press release. There are similarities, but also major differences – and when it comes to writing press releases, most people don’t know the tricks of the trade.
The easiest way is to think about a writing press release is as though it’s a brief.
In content marketing, a writer will be paid to write an article based on the brief you’ve supplied them with. With press releases, you aren’t paying the writer. You’re just hoping they’ll find your press release sufficiently compelling to write an article of their own volition.
Here are five hints to help your press release stand out:
You’ve got to explain, in plain English, what this amazing thing is that your business has done. The best way to do that is to give away the punchline at the very beginning.
Your headline will not only need to be snappy, but also really clear. Many writers receive dozens of press releases a day, and you need to catch their attention immediately.
Distil the essence of what you want to say in as few words as possible then stick it at the top of the page in very big letters. This is not an exercise in subtlety or delicate narrative genius. If you save the best bit for last, chances are they won’t make it that far down the page.
Be a mercenary for a moment – why are you writing a press release? To share your news, publicise your company and win business. Who are the people who will be providing you with this business? That is your audience, so write it for them.
What publications do they read? Send your press release to those publications. What detail will they be most interested in? Focus on that detail.
How should readers get in touch with you? Write that bit in bold!
No really, who cares?
The difficulty with press releases is that they ideally have to be newsworthy. Just sending out an update that you’re still a great company doing wonderful work is unfortunately not going to fly with a press release.
If you haven’t already got a topic in mind, try to think of things you’ve done recently that have been new, first or best. Here are some examples:
“New report suggests…”
“First female CEO of…”
“Best in class awarded to…”
Timing is crucial. Sending your press release out at the right moment can be the difference between a splash and a flop. Imagine if BBC News started writing stories about events that had happened the week before. First they’d lose their credibility, then their audience would disappear in droves.
Which publications you’re submitting your press release to will impact on how recently the subject of the press release will have to have happened. Or, if it’s an upcoming event, how far in advance you need to send it out.
The easiest way to work this out is by looking at how often each publication updates their articles and try to match that. If it’s a quarterly publication, it will have to be relevant to the last quarter or happening in the next. The same rule applies for monthly, weekly and daily.
Say it again, Sam
You’ve got a point to make, some news to share or an event to publicise. Don’t try to say too many different things in one press release – and when you’ve figured out exactly what it is you’re saying, just hammer that point home.
There will be a hundred different ways of saying the same thing. Use half of those in the main body, then include the other half in the notes to editors at the bottom. One hook isn’t enough.
In an ideal world, a journalist or writer will see one of the ways you’ve described your focus and lift it straight from the press release and into their publication.
There’s no one right way to structure your press release, but here’s a useful guide:
4/5 bullet points with top-line info
Introductory paragraph with main point at the start
Paragraph expanding slightly
At least one quote substantiating main point
‘End of release’ subheading
‘Notes to editor’ section including general company info and contact details