Writing a press release that appeals to journalists and editors is still a key element of any public relations strategy.
In a digital era of continuous communication with customers and clients, the effectiveness of the press release endures.
It also remains that journalists are swamped daily with a torrent of pitches on potential stories.
Crafting a professional and attention-grabbing press release therefore requires great skill and considerable knowhow.
Here at PR Team, we can help.
We know just how to pique a journalist’s interest because we’re a team of experienced journalists.
Here’s our quick guide to ensuring your story stands out and garners the media coverage it deserves.
Make it newsworthy
Rule number one is to ensure your story is newsworthy. To get noticed, you’ve got to set a journo’s news senses tingling.
Before sending out any release, ask yourself ‘does what I have to say have news value?’
Busy reporters are trained to quickly decipher information in order to separate the news wheat from the news chaff. They’ll want to see what’s new, or what’s unusual or unexpected in your story. They’ll be looking for the human interest angle, probing for what is relevant to their audience and ultimately they will be asking ‘why should anyone care about this story?’
All too often a press release will take too long to get to the core message.
Your headline should reflect exactly what news your press release details. Avoid being overly clever but instead be direct and give clarity. If your company is announcing 100 new jobs say exactly that! Don’t hide the news behind phrases like ‘jobs boost’ or ‘good news’ for local company.
Journalists thrive on a good top line and your intro is the key aspect of the press release.
It should as concisely as possible sum up the main thrust of the story. As the press release progresses it is vital to cover the ‘who, what, why, where, when and hows’ of your story.
Good journalists love a sharp and concisely written intro – nailing the top line of a story is paramount. Think no more than 23 words in that first sentence and you’re thinking like a journalist.
The ability to stay concise is all important – never over write a press release, keep to a 280-300 word maximum. Certainly never go onto a second page. For a journo, less is always most definitely more.
There are few things journalists hate more than waffle – except maybe jargon and terms that no one understands.
Always use plain language and the golden rule is avoid waffle.
You can include a ‘Notes to Editor’ section as a footnote that will let you expand on background and additional information
Finally, and obviously, always keep your copy clean. Grammar and spelling mistakes will be viewed in a dim light and may consign your work to the trash.
Adding a quote from someone in your organisation gives a human element to your story. It seems obvious but the person should be best qualified to speak on the subject matter. It’s important to always be sure that the person you are quoting is available for further interview.
The quotes you include should offer insight and opinion rather than a regurgitation of what has already been said in the release.
In a similar vein to including quotes, a great picture which perfectly illustrates the story told in your press release adds to the personalisation of your message. Journalists across every medium love a strong image that tells a story.
Keep it relevant and be sure to supply high quality, usable photographs – don’t have a journalist chasing you for a picture that can be used. Don’t send massive files, be sure to resize images so they don’t clog up inboxes.
More info/notes to editors
We’ve already mentioned briefly that a ‘Note to editors’ section as a footnote is always worthwhile. Here, you can expand with additional and background information. A journalist will often use what’s found here as a reference point for further detail to complement the news story. It’s also a chance to pique interest further, perhaps even encourage a more in depth feature or follow-up stories.
Always include some company contact information and state who is available for further interview accompanied with their contact details.
Dont undo your good work
Now you’ve the bulk of the hard work done, the golden rule is not to undo it. Here’s a few quick pointers to keep your right.
Don’t move away from the clarity of communication in your email to reporters – use the headline again as the subject line in your email if it’s appropriate.
Don’t use huge fonts or multi colours. They do not add news value but rather diminish your message. This is not the time to be clever.
Paste the release into the body of an email rather than include as solely an attachment. Make sure the important content is seen as quickly as possible. Some of the bigger news outlets state on their websites that they don’t accept email attachments.
Finally, if you want to make sure a journalist picks up on the great story your organisation has to tell, be sure to place substance over style every time.