Have you always wondered how to write a press release, but didn’t know where to start? Perhaps you’re writing a press release right now and might just want to brush up on some general principles?
If so, we’re here to help as we share our top 10 rules to write an effective press release in 2018.
Understand your audience
If you’re wondering how to start writing a press release you’ll be shocked to find our first tip doesn’t include pen or paper!
First up is recognising who you want your audience to be. Remember, you’re not writing for yourself, or to please the board, sales teams or other internal departments for that matter. When you know your desired audience, you must know where to find them, which is half of the battle when writing a press release – especially in a media rich country such as the UK.
Always be clear about what interests your audience, what they want to know and what they don’t want to know. Think about what benefits your story will provide and you will have a good starting point to begin your piece!
Find the right pacing of your news
Always remember that your news needs to have impact straight away. This means that your headline will need to stand out to editors, journalists and readers. We get asked “how long should a press release headline be?” and although it varies, ideally you should be looking at ten words or less – short, sharp and punchy. If that really isn’t possible, then try working to 15 words max.
From there, you can expand on your headline using a sub-headline to introduce the key point of your news, followed by a short background and then a powerful quote.
This style of writing allows readers to quickly get to the point of the news which hooks them into reading on.
Have a key point
Believe it or not, this is something that does get overlooked. Find the key point of your story and don’t overload your news and articles with too many messages as you want to avoid confusing your reader.
Use a narrative or theme to direct your news and you may be much more successful when pitching to editors. Try creating your own press release template which could help to keep your news on track.
Talk in the NOW!
Who wants to read a dull piece of news? Absolutely nobody – that’s who!
In today’s fast paced world it’s just too much hard work and a turn off. So, try to inject excitement when writing your press release by talking in the ‘now’ and using present tense action verbs.
For example, instead of ‘XXX Branch will soon be launching in Autumn’ try changing to ‘XXX Branch launches in September’.
Subconsciously, it encourages readers to think that they’re reading exciting news, rather than an unnecessary update.
Use stats and metaphors
Time for the statisticians to shine!
Statistics play an important role in PR, helping users gain an understanding of what they’re reading. Additionally, stats help to solidify your points!
Metaphors are also useful in PR, helping to shape the news in readers minds.
For example, if you’re building a shopping centre that spans 10,000 acres, that can be difficult to imagine for the reader. If you say that the land is equivalent to the size of two Bullring Shopping Centres, or six football pitches, it makes it easier for the reader to envision what is happening.
Sentence lengths – vary them!
Sentence length variation is crucial to any piece of writing. Variation improves readability and is the key to giving your content ‘punch’.
As a rule of thumb, sentences should be no more than 20-25 words. Any longer than that and the sentence starts to become too long winded, leaving readers to trail off.
Don’t just work with long sentences either. Vary them – shorter sentences encourage a sense of urgency to read on.
Take a good picture
A picture says a thousand words, as the clichéd saying goes.
A good press release will have strong imagery to go with it.
Make sure the images you sending to publications, editors and journalists is befitting of their own content. If an editor uses in-situ images only, don’t send on studio shots or illustrations as this may not fit well with their other content and style.
Always research where you’re planning to place your press!
Avoid buzzwords, ‘labelling’ words and clichés in your language
‘Extraordinary amount’, ‘Remarkably, this is…’, ‘It’s official,…’.
These are very cliché phrases that will have been seen many times over by editors and readers.
If your stats and claims stand up for themselves, then there really should be no need to use buzzwords or label your stats.
Bring power, passion and someone of authority into your quotes!
Quotes should be punchy, they should resonate power, and they should be voiced by someone as high up the chain as possible – ultimately aiding credibility.
Nobody wants to read a monologue, so quotes should really be concise and no more than two short paragraphs at best.
Understand what makes news
Surprise surprise, but not everything you submit will be published. It’s your job to make sure that your news is as newsworthy as possible. When writing a press release, ask yourself:
Timely – Are you saying the right thing in time for an impending topic?
Impact – Does your story have an impact on users that they simply must know about?
New – Are you talking about something new and innovative? If so it’s more likely to make a mark on your readers and pique their interest.
Human Interest – Is there a human interest angle to your story? Can you elicit a common emotional response with your news? Think about if your story could be something that you talk about during a ‘water cooler’ moment in the office.
Running Story – Can you tie into a running story with your own news? For example, Grenfell Tower has sparked a lot of talking points, including how to be safe around fire, fire doors, cladding, building, legislation etc.
Unexpected or Bizarre – Editors are always looking out for unexpected or the extraordinary. Even news outlets that are perceived as serious, like The Independent, will talk about plants inducing orgasms…It’s all about shareability!
Although some people ask whether the press release is a dead concept, we’re here to tell you it’s really not. There’s so much power in an effective piece of news. Just follow these ten simple rules and you’ll be well on your way to creating a captivating and purpose-led press release.
Still looking for a little guidance on how to improve your press release writing? From concept to press release distribution, just get in touch and we’ll be happy to help.