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Press releases — the oldest but most misunderstood tool of the PR trade

Why we still need press releases

Even in our high-tech, video-laden, image strewn, digital world, writing is still one of our most powerful methods of communication. While many people believe press releases are old-fashioned or irrelevant, the truth is that much of the news you read online or in the papers still reaches journalists in this format.

As public relations experts, it is crucial to position our client’s key messages in top tier publications — whether online or offline. At the end of the day press releases remain a key method for securing publicity and coverage. In fact, in our part of the world the media relies heavily on well written, timely and concise press releases, and will often base whole stories on news that has reached them this way.

For this reason, writing and distributing press releases in a professional manner is not only important for securing coverage, but also for positioning ourselves as experts in our industry and building strong media relations. Whenever the media needs someone to comment on a story, you want to be the one they call on.

At the same time, with all the online press releases at the moment — whether newswires or social media — the media is no longer our only target audience. More than 80 million people currently get their news from online sources, so writing compelling press releases is also a way to speak directly to the consumers we are trying to reach, improve brand image and expand public knowledge.

Press releases are not advertisements, they are stories, and at heart PR professionals are still storytellers. They are also true and based on fact, which makes them essential for providing the public with a credible and authentic view of the news.

While press releases remain an important PR tool for securing coverage, enhancing media relations, gaining consumer trust and telling stories, they are often written very poorly, which defies the point.

Here are six easy tips to help you write better press releases starting today!

  1. Create strong headlines using media hooks

    Use short, strong headlines that capture the overall messages of your press release without the audience even having to read the rest. If you want to make it extra tempting for the media, throw in a hook by thinking about what makes your news different, exciting, unique or spectacular.

  1. Your first paragraph is EVERYTHING

    In your introductory paragraph, you should be focusing on the 5 Ws: Who, What, Where, When and Why. A perfect press release relies on short, straight to the point paragraphs that tell the news upfront. Only use your most important information in the first paragraph.

  1. Your Why paragraph

    Sometimes there isn’t room for the ‘why’ in your first paragraph, so don’t be afraid to add a short second paragraph. This gives you more room to explain the importance of the news without overworking the press release with long blocks of text.

  1. The human voice

    In press releases, quotes provide the human tone of voice, thus ‘humanising’ your news. Use your quote to:

  • Explain the bigger picture behind your news
  • Add new information (avoid repetition of details that have already been used in press the release)
  • Communicate why/how the press release will benefit the reader
  • Reassure the public/stakeholders and strengthen confidence
  1. Additional important details

    All extraneous details should be neatly contained in an additional paragraph. They could include details like how a product works or what workshops an event will feature. These details are ‘nice to know’, but not essential, hence their placement towards the end of the release.

  1. Grand finale — hooray you made it!

    Just like when you were writing an essay back in school, your final paragraph should sum up the entirety of the press release. It can be used for several crucial reasons including:

  • Reminding the reader of the key messages
  • Providing website links
  • Adding a concluding quote, if necessary
  • Listing sponsors/partners, if applicable

Press releases vary widely depending on the news, but as a final bonus tip, always aim to keep your press releases within an A4 page if possible. In today’s busy world, make the media’s life easier by providing them with a press release that is a breeze to read.

Antoine Boghos is the Account Executive of Cicero & Bernay Public Relations. An independent PR agency headquartered in Dubai and offering new-age public relations consultancy to the UAE and across the MENA. | www.cbpr.me