Writing an effective press release can be pretty daunting if you’ve never done it before. But it’s a really useful tool if you want to get media coverage for your business.
If you’re thinking “I’m not really sure what a press release is!” don’t worry – if you don’t work in PR, there’s no reason why you should!
Just think of it as a news announcement – a short document telling journalists about something exciting happening in your business that you think they’ll be interested in writing about.
But before you even think about writing one, there are two crucial questions to ask yourself:
1. Is there something genuinely new or unusual about my story? Journalists are looking for news – your story has to be something different, novel or have an impact on people’s lives. And news is news – if it’s two months old, it’s too late to send to them!
2. Will it interest someone who doesn’t work in my business? You might be thrilled that your logo is changing from red to blue but ask yourself – would you read a story on that subject if it was about a different company? Not really!
Read/watch/listen to the media you’re targeting.
Be really honest with yourself about whether you can see your story fitting in their pages, coverage, topics or debate.
How to structure your release
The key is to tell your story in a succinct, attention-grabbing way.
1. Subject line/headline – journalists get hundreds of emails a day – to be in with a chance of yours even being opened, your subject line needs to be interesting but also tell them what the story is about.
2. First paragraph – the most important part where you should sum up the story – few journalists will read beyond this if it doesn’t grab them. What’s the best bit you need them to know? Make sure it’s in there.
3. Further detail – further down, add more detail about the people involved. We’re not looking for a life story here, just a little info such as age, background and why they’ve done whatever it is that the release is about. If the journalist wants more, they will ask for it.
4. Quote – add a quote from a key spokesperson. Make sure it adds some sort of insight that isn’t already in the release. Offer them to the media for an interview too, if possible.
5. Photos – good quality, high resolution photos are vital to a story and can be the difference between getting published or not. If it’s for print, send a good quality, well-framed photo that’s 300dpi or 1MB. Also, make sure they know who is in the photo or what it’s all about!
6. Extras – if you’re launching a new service or product, invite the journalist to sample it. Send them some if they’d like to.
7. Give the journalist time – once you’ve sent your release DON’T badger the journalist to find out if they’re planning on using it. Constantly calling a busy journalist is a sure-fire way to get blacklisted!
We recommend never to call a journalist unless you know them – it’s a bit like cold-calling and not many of us like that!
Journalists will get back to you if they plan to use your story. If you’ve sent a sample, you might like to ask them if they’ve tried it yet and have feedback, but
do not pester them!
If writing a press release fills you with dread, there are some alternatives!
1. Don’t write a press release at all!
If you don’t feel comfortable or confident writing a press release, just send your intended media a simple pitch email instead. Just let them know the main bits – what your story is, in a short email.
No waffling – get to the point, then offer them the chance to chat with you, or say you can also send some photos or a sample etc. They will pick up with you if they are interested. Make sure you include the 5 Ws – who, what, why, where, when and how.
2. Get a pro to write it instead!
We’ve written hundreds of press releases and we know the right contacts to send them to – take a look at some of our examples here.
We can get hold of their details through our database and contacts, plus we will research their past work, topics and speak to them about how we can give them something worthy to write about for you.
If you’d like help with any kind of press relations, just get in touch!
PR colleagues – contact us about our media database service.