Whether you are writing a press release for the domestic or international media, some things are just the pillars of good press release writing. These need to be considered in the first round of press release writting and then developed for each of the international markets.
Writing a press release can be daunting for some and confusing for others. As an agency we can get push back from clients after we write a press release because they don’t understand why certain things are written in a certain way.
Our friends at PR Web have a useful little tool that helps remind us all what a great press release encompasses. We’ve taken that writing and added our own spin to it here.
Start Strong: You only have a matter of seconds to grab your readers’ attention, so you want to capture it with a strong opening. Your headline, summary and first paragraph should clarify your news. The rest of your release should provide the detail.
Remember the simple who, what, where, when, how rule for your summary.
Identify Yourself: If your release does not identify the source of the information within the first few paragraphs, you may lose the promotional value your release can provide.
One should also consider the importance and relevance of the voice. If it is not strong enough, consider a joint release to increase.
Write Professionally: If your release contains hype, slang, excessive exclamation points or some other common mistakes chances are it will be viewed as an advertisement rather than a news release, which may hurt credibility. Or worse, a media outlet may pick up your release and publish without modification, opening any sloppy writing to a larger audience.
Maybe, just maybe, hype, slang and excessive explanation points are the way your reader thinks and communicates (I guess not though). My point is that you need to think about the writing style for the reader. For example, IBM’s and Apple’s writing style are different.
Limit Jargon: The best way to communicate is to speak plainly using ordinary language. Using an abundance of technical language and jargon limits your reading audience.
Or worse still, the editor will not be familiar with your jargon/acronyms and will incorrectly use them in their reporting.
Make sure your Information is Informational and Timely: Think about your audience. Will someone else find your story interesting? Answer the question, “Why should anyone care?” Make sure your announcement contains information that is timely, unique, highlights something new or unusual, and provides useful information to your audience. In other words, don’t make it an advertisement for your business.
This has to be the number one reason a press release does not get past an editor. News has to be exactly that – newsworthy.
Avoid Clichés: You don’t listen to clichés. Neither will your audience. Avoid phrases like “customers save money” or “great customer service” to announce or describe. Focus on the aspects of your announcement that truly set you apart from everyone else.
In our multi-cultural world, clichés do not translate well. Just avoid.
Pick an Angle: Make sure that your release has a good hook. Tying your information to current events, recent studies, trends and social issues brings relevance, urgency and importance to your message.
The media loves controversy and sells their publication on it. Use this power.
Communicate beyond words: Use multimedia files like images, video, links and other features that will capture the attention of your readers and highlight your news. Attach logos, head shots, product shots, photographs, audio files, video files, PDF documents or any other supplemental materials that build up your release. Use anchor text and hyper links to point readers back to your site ensures both your Website and your important keywords receive simultaneous promotion in your press release.
A picture is worth a thousand words. A video is worth a million words.
Illustrate the Solution: Use real life examples to illustrate how your company or organization solved a problem. Identify the problem and why your solution is the right solution. Give examples.
Case studies and testimonials are vital for building credibility. Without credibility your press release is a dead duck.
Don’t Give Away All the Secrets: If you’re running a new promotion this season, tell readers where they can go to learn more. Provide links in your press release directly to the page on your Website where readers can learn the specifics about your news and then act upon it. If you give your readers no reason to click through to your site, they’re not necessarily going to.
You want to create traffic, engage the audience (part of the road to a sale) and measure your success. Links do this for you.
Stick to the Facts: Tell the truth. Avoid fluff, embellishments, hype and exaggerations. If you feel that your press release seems sensational, there’s a good chance your readers will think so too.
The truth always comes out – maybe today, maybe tomorrow or maybe long in the future. The press live to find the truth. The Code of Ethics of the Society of Professional Journalists’ number one stated oath is to report the truth.
Use Active Voice: Verbs in the active voice bring your press release to life. Rather than writing “entered into a partnership,” use “partnered” instead. Do not be afraid to use strong verbs. For example, “The committee exhibited severe hostility over the incident” reads better if changed to “The committee was enraged over the incident.”
Strong is good.
Economize Your Words: Be concise. News search engines sometimes reject news releases with overly long headlines, excessive lists and high overall word counts. Eliminate unnecessary adjectives, flowery language or redundant expressions such as “added bonus” or “first time ever.”
Proofread: Write your press release in a Word or other text document instead of writing it directly on the online submit page, so you can print it, proofread, rewrite and proofread again. The more time you take to do it right, the better your company’s impression to the world.
If you are proof reading your own work, then we highly recommend you don’t proof read the same day that you write. Better still, use the four eyes principal and have two separate people proof read the release to check and double check all of the points above.