An essential part of any PR professional’s toolbox, a press release is nevertheless a tricky proposition for many working in the industry. Drafting a cohesive, well-structured and impactful piece that captures the eye of an editor is a skill that doesn’t come easily for a lot of people. Compounding the issue is the fact that many journalists no longer consider what arrives into their in-box as potential material for a story and instead rely on new forms of media as their go-to channels. A 2012 survey of 600 journalists by PR News found that more than half used social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook to find stories from known and reliable sources, with half of these journalists verifying existing stories using these social platforms.
You can take it as read that any press release you write and share with the media via e-mail is more than ever before likely to be… unread. These days it seems that having your release appraised but ignored is a good result, with the deletion of your unopened e-mail a much more common occurrence. In order to reduce the chances of this happening, you need to follow some simple guidelines. The following 10 tips for mastering the art of press releases should help you grab that all-important editor’s attention.
- Make sure that your e-mail subject line is arresting and attention-grabbing. Keep it short and to the point, as prolix text is likely to see your e-mail consigned straight to the recycle bin. The first hurdle is to get your media colleague to actually open your communication.
- Employ the same technique with your press release headline and first paragraph. Treat each stage in the process as a step to keep the editor reading.
- Always share quotes for key spokespersons. In doing so, try and avoid trite openings such as “We are delighted to announce…” Be original with your quotes – it will make the journalists more interested in reading your news.
- A business story should always include figures and numbers. Facts and statistics are what journalists look for in these press releases.
- Include a boiler plate at the end of the press release with a short summary about the company, its history and achievements. Similarly, a few links to further substantive information can help the journalist when they want to find out more.
- Don’t write long paragraphs full of purple prose to tell the story. Flowery language can obfuscate and annoy.
- Avoid repetition. Find another word if you have used a noun or adjective already. An online Thesaurus is a great tool to extend the range of your press release as well as expand your vocabulary into the bargain.
- Keep in mind that although you know about your client’s product and service, your reader might necessarily not. Give explanations and avoid industry acronyms. A journalist won’t be interested in finishing an article full of abbreviations that he or she doesn’t understand – it might as well be written in a foreign language as far as they are concerned.
- Your press release should be objective in tone as far as possible. If it reads like a naked advertisement, you can be sure it will get dumped straight into the recycle bin. When promoting the positive, do so in the context of a quote and not in the narrative of the text. In this way you are factually reporting what was said.
- Don’t submit your release until you have had a colleague peruse it for accuracy and errors. Spending a couple of hours writing can lead to word blindness and the missing of certain details. A fresh set of eyes can flag up issues and ensure that your story is the masterpiece you are aiming for.