It’s very easy to get caught up in the many kinds of digital content – short-form and long-form articles, Facebook posts, Tweets, Instagram pics, videos, blogs, podcasts, infographics – but one of the most useful forms of content is the humble press release.

What is a press release?

A press release — also known as a media release or news release, is a simple document containing a formal or official announcement. The announcement may be about your business or organisation, a special event, a new staff member, new research or even policy change.

A press release — also known as a media release or news release, is a simple document containing a formal or official announcement. Click To Tweet

This document should be well-written and presented in a format that is ready to publish. For a busy journalist or content publisher, a high-quality press release can be a God-send. It alleviates the need for them to search for content or write it themselves. With a few quick keystrokes, your release can be edited and then distributed far and wide.

Press releases offer you a unique opportunity to engage with your audience and provide them with key information you want them to know. They can also be a useful tool to build your inbound marketing strategy.

When should you use a press release?

While press releases can be useful, only use them when launching products, making a special announcement, or promoting a special achievement. Click To Tweet

While press releases can be a useful marketing tool, don’t rely on them too often. By all means use them when you need to, but avoid presenting all your content in the form of a release. Save them for the following situations:

  • launching new products
  • launching re-branded products
  • opening of a new office or announcing an expansion
  • introducing a new partnership or new executive
  • promotion of new research relating to your business
  • promoting an award you may have received.

How do you write a press release?

Press releases aren’t too difficult to write, but there are some basic guidelines to follow, in order to increase the likelihood that it will be published.

Snappy headline

A catchy, snappy headline is probably the most important. If you don’t have one, your release may not even be opened and read. Things that may help you achieve this include using statistics in your headline, asking or answering a question, using a prominent name (if it ties in with your content), or using alliteration — that is using words that start with the same letter (e.g. She sells sea shells by the sea shore).

Tell your story in the first paragraph…or two

This is a tip I learnt while studying journalism. Back in those days (not quite the olden days, but certainly before the computer age), news was printed in a paper, and your release was only published if it was newsworthy and if there was space. If there wasn’t enough space to include the entire press release, journalists would tend to cut copy from the bottom up. With that in mind, we were encouraged to ensure the gist of the story be covered in the first one or two paragraphs — in case our carefully crafted words were slashed .

Use the 5 Ws and 1 H

The best way to tell your story in the first paragraph is to focus on the ‘5 Ws and 1 H’. What are these?

  • Who – Who is the story about?
  • What – What is the main point that’s worth sharing?
  • Where – Where did it happen?
  • When – When did it happen?
  • Why —Why did it happen?
  • How — How did it happen?

It’s not always possible to cover off all of the above in just one paragraph (which should only be one sentence, by the way). But try to answer as many of them as you can.

Focusing on the 5Ws and the H can also help you write more engaging content for your other digital copy.

Most important information first

I touched on this before but it’s important you place the most important information high up in your press release. This way the journalist or publisher reading your release will get a pretty good idea about what your story is, without having to sort through the entire thing. It also makes it easier for them if they need to cut it down, due to space restrictions.

Use direct quotes

Where possible, use direct quotes. These should be from someone with authority or expertise in the area (e.g. your CEO, Managing Director, etc.). Get them to quote interesting stats, or how customers will benefit from your announcement.

Validate your claims

If you’re making any type of claim (e.g. We are the most-loved brand in Australia), you need to provide evidence of this. Otherwise, it’s just hype. Similarly, if you quote statistics, make sure you state where you got your statistics from. (e.g. According to the Heart Foundation…) If you can’t back up your claims, then leave them out altogether. A press release is an opportunity to build your credibility, so don’t waste it by unsubstantiated claims.

Include your call to action

Always include a call to action. What do you want readers to do? Buy your product? Sign up to a newsletter? Change their diet? Seek medical advice? Tell them what you want them to do.

Include contact details

At the bottom of your release, ensure you provide contact details (e.g. name, phone, email and web address) in case anyone wants to follow up for further information or comment.

Check for errors

A simple but important step is to proofread your release for errors — spelling, grammatical and factual. If you want some great tips on proofreading, check out this blog.

Know who to send it to

It’s one thing to have a great press release, but unless you get it in front of the right pair of eyes, it may never see the light of day. Obviously send it to journalists (both metro and local papers). You can also send it to freelance writers who specialise in your field, or other well-known people who have a media profile (but only if they relate back to your line of business).

A final note…

You may have the best-written press release in the world, with the snappiest headline and the zippiest content, but this doesn’t guarantee that it will be published. NNews is a fickle business. It changes from hour to hour, so don't be disheartened if your press release gets passed by. Click To Tweet

 

If your press release didn’t make the cut, ask why. It might be because it didn’t fit in with the news flow of the day, or it may be that it wasn’t written well enough. Either way, use this feedback to improve your chances next time, instead of being deterred from doing it again.

If you need to get the word out about some amazing developments in your business, but aren’t sure how to go about writing a press release, why not chat to me. I’ve written heaps of press releases and would love to help you out.

Cheers
Nerissa

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