April 26, 2010
A press release is the standard way to alert the media, and increasingly, the online public, about what you are doing or selling.
The press release forms part of the public relations artillery and should be used wisely. Though mostly written and distributed by PR professionals, you too can competently write your own press releases, if you keep the following 12 key points in mind.
- Think of the 5 ‘Ws’: The press release mantra is WWWWW. Before you do anything, think Who, What, When, Where and Why. Fail to include this vital information and it’s a total Waste of time
- The golden first paragraph: this is your chance to grab the media’s attention, so make it punchy. The first, short paragraph should announce the ‘5 ‘W’s’ and the rest of the press release will expand upon it
- Newsworthy: We call it the ‘news’ because it is ‘new.’ What makes your story press-worthy? What is new about what you are doing? Is there new research? The media love stories about anything that is the biggest, smallest, fastest, world’s first or most exciting. Think of all the ways your story is new, include them, and back up your claims
- Concise: A press release should never, ever be longer than two pages of A4. One page is ideal. Keep the font neutral and the layout clear — a 1.5 line spacing is bes
- Contact: Always include your contact details at the bottom of the press release. That’s your full name, phone number, mobile and email address
- Personal touch: Include a quotation which communicates your key messages in a lively way. Sound ‘thrilled’ or ‘excited’ about what you are announcing. If it’s not really interesting or exciting news, you shouldn’t bother the press with it
- Proof, proof and proof again: it is unacceptable to send out a press release full of grammatical errors. Get someone else to proof it, then print it out and proof it again
- When emailing your press release, include it clearly in the main body of your email. The media probably won’t bother opening your word document attachment
- Balance: it’s a fine, fine line between spin and being downright misleading. Go for an attention grabbing headline, but don’t lie or over-hype your story and NEVER USE CAPITALS AS IT WILL ONLY ANNOY PEOPLE
- Write for the task in hand: your press release is not a submission for a prose writing competition. Keep it clear, informative and as factual as possible. Have fun with the headline, but don’t over use ‘fluffy language’ in the main body of the release
- It is not a sales pitch: refrain from ‘sales speak’; this is not the place. A press release serves to inform the media about a newsworthy event, not flog a product like in an advert (although, that is the desired byproduct of course)
- And lastly: use press releases wisely. Expanding your home office into a purpose built garden shed may be big news in your family, but probably less so on the global stage. Put out strong stories and get a good name for yourself. Put out rubbish and, well, it’s your reputation that’ll be at stake.
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