7 tips for writing a great press release
Press releases are easy to hate. So many of them are poorly written, off target or way too long.
But if you’re a writer covering the world of business, press releases are a fact of work life.
In the years I’ve been a business reporter, first at a daily newspaper and more recently as a freelance writer, I’ve probably gotten thousands of press releases, maybe tens of thousands. At the paper I had stacks of them sitting on my desk. Today everything comes via email. But no matter how they’re delivered, there are a few things that set good press releases apart from bad ones, and really great ones from the only so so.
Here are my top tips for writing a great press release:
1. Content is more important than writing. Explain exactly what the news is in the first paragraph and don’t worry about making it sound pretty. That’s the reporter’s job.
2. Context is just as important as content. Explain why an event, product or new hire is important to the company, organization or association making the announcement. The reporter has to do this anyway, so if you include the information, you’re giving her a head start.
3. Keep it short. One page is perfect, unless it’s quarterly earnings. Forget the flowery language, just stick to the facts. If a reporter needs more information, she’ll call.
4. Include a date and phone number. This sounds like a no brainer, but you’d be amazed how many times I’ve done research about a company online and found old press releases with no date or no phone number. Are they trying to make it hard for reporters to follow up?
5. Know who you’re writing the release for. The reporter for the local daily newspaper will have a different take on your announcement than the staff writer at the trade magazine that covers your industry, so slant your press releases accordingly. Know who the target audience or readers of each publication you’re sending the release to are and why your news is important to them. This is something reporters have to do every day, so make it easy for them. If you do, they’re more likely to want to work with you and not just now but the next time you email a pitch.
6. Make sure someone is available to take calls after a release goes out – and not just the PR staff. It’s incredibly annoying to have a company make an announcement and then have the CEO, product manager or whoever was included in the release not be available. And don’t call a reporter to make sure they got your release – they did.
7. Don’t be offended if a reporter isn’t interested. What might be big news for your company might not be a big deal for that daily paper or trade magazine. But if you’re sending material to a reporter who regularly covers your company or organization, you can be sure they’re reading it and saving it for a time when they’re doing a trend piece that your company or group will fit into nicely, or as background when your company gets acquired, lands a huge contract or goes public.
The best PR people understand all this and act accordingly, and when they do, they make reporters’ jobs that much easier.
Do you have your own suggestions or tips for what makes a good press release?