“How do I write a press release?” came the recent call from an old friend who I’d never worked with but thought of me immediately when asked to do this task and not knowing where to start.
Having started work on my local newspaper aged 16 and spent over 20 years in communications, she knew I’d be able to help – this is a bit like walking to me.
Is it news?
“First ask yourself why you’re writing a press release”, I told her. “What’s it for? Do you have news?” Fortunately, it turned out she did – but this is a mistake I’ve seen time and time again. If you’re writing a press release (or a web article – they follow a similar format) and expecting others to use it you need to define why it’s interesting. Why do people need to read about this?
Some people think press releases are old hat – and I agree it depends on the situation – but I find for small business and events they are still surprisingly effective as a way of targeting local and specialist publications and getting it right makes you far more likely to get featured. They also present a very useful formula of creating any piece of content as well as a way to sense check projects. Sometimes I write one to seek clarity on an event and spot any areas I’ve missed or not considered – but that’s probably just me.
Having established that you do have something newsworthy to write about, then think about your audience. Who’s interested in this news? Is it for an internal audience, interested parties or the general public (tip: it’s rarely the last one and if you’re after general coverage and it isn’t interesting enough you’re going to ned an advertising budget). That will tell you whether you need to write it in first person (using we and you) or third person (written as if you’re a third party).
Press releases need to be in third person so the text can be cut and pasted for ease of use – if a journalist or website cuts and pastes your work and shares it without altering it pat yourself on the back – it means you’ve done a great job!
The rest is really pretty simple and can be applied to any story you need to tell. Follow the format below using the first paragraph describe the news and why it matters and the rest of the story to cover the who/ why/ what/ where/ when of your story. If you’re sending this out in an email put it in the body of the message (attachments are suspicious and don’t get opened) and remember your GDPR and use the bcc field if you’re sending it to more than one person out there.
For immediate release: 11.10.2021
What is your news? Why is that important. (two sentence intro)
Write 2-3 paragraphs about what you’re doing. Think about covering who/ why/ what/ where/when/ how?
Put yourself in your audience’s shoes and always talk about why the news is important for them (we call this selling the benefits as well as the features). Always keep in mind why you’re sending the information out and speak to that aim in your copy.
Add in a 2 – 3 sentence quote from someone at the firm ie.
John Doe, Managing Director , said: “This is brilliant news because. It will mean we can… etc. This is a chance to be more human and say things you may not be able to easily work in elsewhere.”
For longer pieces and on the web you may want to include subheads and bullet points, if they make reading easier.
Try to keep it as short as you can but whilst telling the whole story.
Finish with what the news means for the future if you can and add a Call to Action – where to find out more info – could be an email, weblink etc?
- Selection of press images at: <insert link>
- Generic info about the company.
- For media information, images, interviews please contact: <contact info>