#Basics: How to Write a Press Release
It’s October. We’re thinking about pumpkin spice, flannel and fires. The fall basics. Seems like a good time to launch a series exploring PR basics. We’re kicking it off with press release tips and tricks, and a focus on development because, well, we come across a lot of press releases that need improvement. And we want to help.
No matter what industry you work in or what the occasion is, knowing how to write an eye-catching press release is one of the many requirements of a PR pro. It will take some practice before you can write a release with complete ease, but learning these guidelines will help get you there faster.
1. The headline.
The headline is the first thing a reporter will see. Naturally, you want to make it catchy. But avoid too much fluff. A headline in a press release is supposed to state the purpose of the release without giving too much away. Make it strong. Make it significant. And try not to make it too long. Try to keep it under 10 words. And just because it’s the first line people read, doesn’t mean you have to write it first. Try pulling together the content in the body of the release first. Use it as inspiration and recap with a straight-forward, interesting headline.
2. The inverted pyramid.
Not a yoga move. The inverted pyramid in writing means to mention the important details first. Who is involved? What is the news about? Is it an event? When does it take place? Where does it take place? Why does this matter?
Did you see what I did there? Who, what, when, where, why. Cover all of the critical details first then let the supporting content follow.
3. Avoid the fluff.
As a writer you may want to keep the content light and colorful. It’s hard to do, but do it anyways. And while you might think reporters are interested in every catchy, long-winded, perfectly created meaningless marketing jargon—the truth is, they just aren’t. Reporters are busy. Make it easy for them to read and understand. Keep it simple, but significant. Facts not fluff. The only place for opinions in a press release is in the quote. And speaking of quotes…
4. Quotes. Say Something Interesting.
Reporters want to hear from a reputable source. And as much as it breaks our heart, rarely is the Director of Marketing considered a reputable source. CEO, President or divisional leadership is your best bet for most announcements. You want to put a dependable face on the brand, so pick your spokespeople wisely. Once you know who you are quoting, write something interesting. Get to the heart of why this announcement matters—what is the impact on your target audience. Quote writing is fun. But don’t overdo it. Generally, two quotes in a release is more than enough.
5. Proof read. Then proof read again.
When writing it is easy to slip and have a few spelling errors that your computer might have missed. It also is common to read the release over and over yourself and still not see these mistakes. You want your release to read flawlessly. So proof read, proof read again, ask a colleague to read through it, and then read it again yourself. A single mistake can alter how a reporter views you and your client.
6. Length matters.
Remember when I said that reporters are busy? Make life easier on them. Try to keep your release on one page, no longer than two. Journalists will appreciate you for it and you’ll end up with more coverage.
7. Who can reporters reach?
Talk about basic. But necessary. Who can a reporter contact for more information and how? Including a cell number is a requirement. If you don’t want to be contacted by people at all hours of the day and night, stop reading this and rethink your career choice. Otherwise, make sure your cell and email are on the release and be prepared to answer basic questions and help arrange interviews with the executive.
How about that for #basics? Is there anything we missed? How about a topic you are interested in us covering? Comment below. And don’t forget to keep up with our #basics series. Next week: #Basics: Social Media Measurement.