How to: Write a press release
A Press Release is...
An official announcement document between 300-400 words, issued to media outlets. The announcement can be to promote a new product, service or business activity. A press release is also known as a “news release” or “media release”.
You're essentially selling what your business has done to journalists who will then sell it to their readers/audience.
Who is a press release for?
Who is a press release for? Journalists, and media producers. However it should contain information that is relevant to the audience of that journalist or media producer.
Why should you use a press release?
Social Media is great for getting your message across to a large number of people. However, most small businesses don't have anywhere near the reach that a national, or international media outlet does.
If you want to get your message across to a large audience (we're talking hundreds of thousands or millions of people) then press coverage is the way to go; unless you happen to have a Social Media following of a small country (in which case we'd like to have a conversation about you joining our team) or if you create a viral publicity stunt.
When should you use a press release?
It's best to create one when you have something big to announce for example:
• A product launch
• The opening of a new store
• Receiving an award
In the digital media world writers are under pressure to create huge amounts of content very quickly. A newsworthy press release will often be more-or-less copy and pasted straight into an article. So it's a great chance to present your brand exactly how you want it to a new audience.
Your press release must be something that a journalist can easily imagine appearing in the media outlet they work for, that fits in with their style and usual content.
Coach Buzz says:
A press release requires you to be very economical with your writing. With that in mind press releases need to be coherent, well written and quickly digestible. Long form is not needed here.
A Clickable Headline
In the digital media era everything is based on how 'clickable' a headline is. Increasingly as printed media is abandoned in favour of digital, every story has to fight for attention against everything else.
So it's essential that if a story is going to get picked up that a journalist or blogger can imagine their audience seeing your headline and being tempted to click on it.
So make sure you write a headline that grabs enough attention to get the journalist interested enough to read the first line of your press release.
Take the following title for a press release “Mother of 10 Transforms Corporate Dynamics”. Here the author has used a tried and tested technique of writing an unusual statement that teases you into wanting to know more.
In fact there's two unusual elements presented in just six words, meaning it very quickly drives a high level of curiosity in the audience.
Point of interest 1: It's rare for anyone to have 10 children. So just the fact that someone is a 'mother of 10' is unusual in itself.
Point of interest 2: There's an immediate preconception that a mother of 10 kids would not having any time for a career. So the idea of a mother of 10 not only having time to look after all her kids but also simultaneously transforming corporate dynamics challenges that preconception.
Coach Buzz says:
Don’t be tempted to create ‘clickbait’. Your headline must be truly reflective of the rest of your story. If you promise the earth in your headline in an effort to get it opened and then don’t have a story to justify your ambitious headline, your credibility in the eyes of the journalist will instantly disappear.
The Five W’s (Who, What, Why, Where, When)
You should be able to explain the basics of your story as quickly as possible in order to allow a very busy journalist/producer/blogger to get a sense of the story and if it's something they want to cover.
If you’re writing economically you should be able to get the 5 W’s & in one sentence.
Check out this example from a recent press release. “DK celebrate its extensive Star Wars publishing list during Star Wars Celebration Europe at Excel London this July” . That breaks down as follows:
• Who: DK
• What: celebrates its extensive Star Wars publishing list
• Why: it's part of the Star Wars celebration Europe show
• Where: Excel, London
• When: July.
Coach Buzz says:
If you have several key messages (e.g. for the launch of a new service) it can be a good idea to list them using bullet points in at the top of the press release, before going on to the 5W's.
The Date of The Press Release
News and media is by its very nature timely. A big story from last week is old news.
So having the date displayed at the top of your press release is a small, but essential detail in terms of letting everyone know that your story is current and newsworthy.
Tweak The Text Of Your Press Release To Appeal To The Media Outlet
Unless you are a huge brand, press releases are not a ‘spray and pray’ operation. You need to tailor your language and tone appropriately for each release.
A tabloid newspaper will want very different details than a broadsheet newspaper. Similarly, a local newspaper will want different details to a national newspaper.
You should be as familiar with the style of every media outlet you are pitching to as possible.
Your aim is to minimise the amount of work a journalist has to do to put your story in their publication.
So the more it looks like a story is not tailored to their media outlet, the less likely it is that they are going to use it.
Bold Important Phrases
Journalists and media professionals love to scan written content quickly. If there are key standout phrases or details that you think are likely to impress them make sure you put them in bold.
That way the journalist will scan straight to the bits you want to highlight and consequently will be more interested to digest the whole press release.
Social Proof is a powerful form of persuasion. That’s why reviews are so important and you listen to the recommendations of your friends.
If anyone, particularly anyone with some authority in your industry has said something positive on record about your business or business, use it!
Include Photos If Relevant
If you have pictures that illustrate the story and you think are good enough to be considered for publication, do include them along with the press release.
However, do make sure that you re-size the pictures, as large file sizes (e.g. 1MB+) will potentially trigger a spam filter in a journalist’s inbox, meaning that your pitch will never get through.
Make sure that you include links to where the journalist can download hi-resolution versions of the photographs should they want to use them in their media outlet/publication.
Hyperlink Everything That Needs It
If you want to give a journalist an opportunity to learn more about a subject that is referenced in your press release make sure that you hyperlink the relevant text. Make it as easy as possible for the journalist to discover the information.
Notes to the Editor
At the bottom of your press release you can include general background information about your business or other relevant information that you think might be of interest to the journalist
(e.g. more information on a conference that you are speaking at).
This is particularly relevant if you don’t think the journalist would have heard of you before.
Including your contact details is very important. Make sure they are clearly visible and it’s obvious who the right person for the journalist to contact is.
- Use the 5W's to get your point across.
- Write economically
- Send your press release to a targeted media outlet/s
- Write in long form
- Send your press release to a random media outlet.
- Over complicate it
Still confused or daunted? Or just thinking that this is all too much to remember?
The good news is you don't have to.
We have built a press release tool as part of our Buzzramp system that guides you through the process of writing a press release, step-by-step; so that you have the best possible chance of your press release being successful. It makes sure things are in the right order and format as well as reminding you of all the key elements you need to include. If you want to access for free it click the orange 'try it free now' button at the top of the page or click try BuzzRamp for free.
We look forward to reading your press releases in the media soon.
Until next time.
Asher & The BuzzRamp team.