Press releases don’t always get press. Unsurprisingly, the key to getting press with your press releases is actually the same as the one you use to drive conversions – you have to consider the end user and their needs. Here’s an Oxygen guide to doing just that.
A good press release is a boon to a busy journalist
You don’t have to be shy about sending in press releases. Newsrooms are understaffed. Print media is increasingly under pressure since the web provided a free and instant way for people to get news. Deadlines are ever more tight. All this actually makes for an environment in which your press release is more likely to get you press – but only if it’s good. The poor harried journalist or editor in this situation needs the article virtually ready to go. And that’s precisely what your press releases should be.
How to construct press releases that get you press
The angle and the focus
It’s essential to understand that your press release should be written in a way that works as an article. So you need a good angle to start with. Take some time to consider what this should actually be. And then the parties that should feature most heavily. For instance, if you’re a minor celebrity who just switched on a town’s Christmas lights, then the headline and release will place you first in terms of mentions, quotes, and priority. If you’re the town that hosted the celebrity, the opposite is true. If you’re writing the press release for your organisation, you need to make sure they feature heavily and come off looking good. If you want people to take action e.g. buy tickets to an upcoming festival or concert, you need to focus on making it sound like a ‘must attend’ event by whetting the reader’s appetite. Your language and angle will also be influenced by the kinds of press you’ll be sending the release to. Local and national newspapers may need one angle, a specialist trade magazine, another, with more specialist terms or facts and figures. The tone needs to be factual, so cut any hyperbole or obvious advertising both in body copy and accompanying images.
The perfect headline for press releases
The headline has to be catchy. Ideally it should be short, punchy and crucially, it must encapsulate the key point you’re making with the press release. Think about the key names and key words you need in order to convey your story and play around with these. If you’re not sure, pick up the nearest paper or google a major news website to study their style of headline. Some journalists recommend waiting until you’ve written the whole release to write the headline. You should certainly revisit it once the release is written to see if it needs tightening up. Bold and centre your headline and capitalise the first word and all proper nouns.
The perfect first paragraph for press releases
Start with the date and the location or town where the news originates. Now this is the secret of writing a good press release. The first sentence needs to expand on the headline to give the essence of the story all in one go. This is the classic journalistic ‘funnel’ method of writing, and you can use what you remember of that ‘classic newsroom’ tone to assist you. You can add any crucial details also in the first paragraph. Check to make sure you’ve included the ‘who, what, when, where and how’ to ensure the reader gets the full picture. For instance, if you’re publicising an event, don’t forget to specify date and time. Subsequent paragraphs may add detail or quotes, but the first one should be constructed so that if the editor only has space for the headline and the first paragraph, they can cut any subsequent paragraphs without worrying that the article will be incomprehensible. This makes their job much easier and means the reader doesn’t have to dig down into the copy to find out what actually happened.
The second paragraph should add some detail on the story, and the third include a quote, the fourth perhaps website information and purchasing information and so on, until you come to the end. Press releases can be anything from between 200 to 500 words. While ‘short and to the point’ is good, don’t make your release so short that the journalist feels they have to go digging around for more. Make sure your grammar and punctuation is correct. Spell all names correctly! (You’ll really offend people if you don’t.) Make sure you have permission to include the quotes you’re using, and keep your sentences short and your language simple so that your copy is scannable.
The contact information and boilerplate
If you’re lucky, the journalist will want further information and to include a photo, or even want to interview the principals in order to do a spread. Under ‘Notes to the Editor’ you should include your key person or PR’s office address, website, landline, mobile telephone numbers and email address, and indicate if photos are available. (Hint – make some available! It will get you more column inches…) You should also include a ‘boilerplate’ or section about your organisation under the heading ‘About ____’ e.g profile including goals/values and/or brief history. Don’t forget to use double spacing for the main body copy, following it by the word ‘ends’ before the notes to the editor. This is because the editor needs to know where the release ends and to be able to make notes.
Writing a press release that gets press under the pressure of a deadline for a news story takes practice. It’s an art. If you’re having problems making the most of newsworthy events in your business, give Oxygen a call today on 0845 2606 255. We can get you talked about…