How to write a great press release » SMEInsider

How to write a great press release

Getting coverage for your business in the local, regional or even national press can boost sales, generate buzz around what you’re doing and save you a fortune on marketing. But grabbing the attention of a busy journalist isn’t easy, so make sure you up your game with these essential tips.

Is it really news?

Of course you’re excited about your company’s latest product/hire/award/pet. But if you didn’t have a vested interest, would you actually care? And will anyone else care? To be newsworthy, your press release needs to have an element of the unusual or unexpected, contain something genuinely new, or be of intrinsic interest to people outside your organisation. If your story is actually a bit of a non-story, don’t waste your time sending it to the Times. Focus on sharing it with the people who are interested in what you’re up to by posting it on your blog or social media sites instead.

Write great headlines – but don’t try to be clever

Both your headline and your email subject line should be punchy and arresting, but never enigmatic. If it’s not obvious from the title what the article is about, journalists won’t bother to read it. Pick out the most important detail of the piece and build your headline around that.

Your top line should be your first line

Your first sentence should communicate in 15-20 words what the rest of the article is about. It should read like the opening line of a news story, so if you’re in need of inspiration, scan through a news site for opening lines that make you want to read on, or imagine that your story has made it onto broadcast news. How would the presenter introduce it in a single sentence?

Remember the five Ws here: who, what, where, why and when, as this is what journalists will scan for when deciding if it’s relevant to them. If it fails to engage, a pushed-for-time journalist is likely to hit delete before they reach paragraph two.

Be concise

Nothing is going to get your press release relegated to the recycle bin faster than an epic expanse of text. The ideal is to make your press release as close to the finished article as possible, which means keeping it to 300-400 words and making sure it’s well-written, carefully edited and error-free. Whilst it’s good practice to include a short paragraph summarising who you are and what you do, put this in a separate “notes to editors” section at the end. Don’t try to shoehorn it into the actual piece.

Use quotations

Including a few words from key colleagues, customers and/or anyone mentioned by name in your piece is a great way to give the story a human touch. Many local, regional and trade publications will want to use quotes word-for-word if they run the story. This means that your quotations must be free from jargon and awkward punctuation, give an interesting perspective rather than just reeling off facts and statistics, and, most importantly, sound as if a real person said them. It might look fine written down, but unless your Managing Director is a robot from the future, there is no way that she announced a new IT project with the words: “We feel that our customers slash clients can benefit from our flagship DR slash BC plan to determine RTP and RPO by one streamlining communications internally two implementing top-down marketing budgets.” Always, always read quotations aloud to check that they sound like natural speech.

And finally…

Generally speaking, it’s wise to make it clear in the subject line that the email is a press release, to paste the text into the body of the email and to write a very brief introductory paragraph explaining how/why you feel that the story fits with the publication that you are pitching to. Good quality images are also a huge plus if you can provide them – attach smaller versions to avoid clogging up inboxes, but mention in your introduction that you can send through full size, high resolution ones if required.