How to write a press release that gets noticed

Want to know how to write a press release? Use the inverted pyramid formula: lead with the essentials, follow with details and facts, and finish with nice to know stuff

How to write a press release for your business

If you are a business owner who has thought about generating some free media exposure via a press release, but has also wondered exactly how to write a press release for your business, then keep reading!

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Writing a press release isn’t difficult – businesses do it all the time. What is difficult, however, is writing one that gets noticed. In order to be seen (let alone published!), you need to develop copy that stands above the rest.

Press releases are an awesome method of generating free media exposure. Best of all, with media companies now leveraging as much electronic exposure as they can, you really are getting bang for your buck. And all is costs is a bit of your time.

There are a few essential elements that will assist with the development of a professional and successful press release – use this simple ‘cheat sheet’ (and download my free press release template!) and you are well on your way!

Step 1: Determine what you want to achieve from your press release

What is the goal of your press release? Are you looking to develop your community profile through good news or success stories? Do you want to highlight an issue, or mobilise readers to take action?

Defining your goal is essential to:

(a)  Structuring your content, and

(b)  Developing a specific call to action.

Step 2: Develop a headline that stops traffic!

An effective headline is the first step to gaining attention. If your headline doesn’t draw the reader in, your story won’t receive attention – regardless of how valuable your message and how well-written it is.

Brainstorm a few headlines and put them to one side while you develop your copy. If you have established your goal, it will make it easier to identify your direction, and you will have something to come back to when you’ve completed your story.

Step 3: Use the Inverted Pyramid formula

Say it in the first sentence – all of it!

The Inverted Pyramid formula is the journalistic approach to stories. It started with print newspapers where space was always limited – as the print deadline got closer, stories had to be culled in order to fit in last-minute copy. This meant that stories had to written in such a manner that they could be cut from the bottom, at any paragraph, with absolutely no impact on the story itself.

The Inverted Pyramid formula remains as relevant with electronic publishing as it has always been with print, and so it is vital that you write in a manner where culling the copy from the bottom wont compromise your meaning.

Start by telling them about the conclusion

  • Ensure that all relevant facts and information appear in the first sentence – this sentence should tell the entire story on its own
  • Ensure you address the essentials – Who, What, Where, Why and How – these are the must-share facts that you want to sit above the fold. The ‘nice to know’ sits below the fold
  • Conclude by giving the reader background information (the ‘nice to know’). Each paragraph should be less important than the one above it.

Keep your copy short and sharp!

  • Write in short sentences
  • Use short paragraphs and cut the clutter
  • Avoid jargon
  • Spell out the facts
  • Always use Plain English
  • Use the active voice
  • Punctuate for clarity
  • Have a clear core message, and
  • Structure key information to the foreground.

Include quotes

Always include quotes from relevant parties – they provide your press release with credibility, authority and validity. And when citing your source, always identify their name and position (whether it be in a business or personal capacity).

Avoid positioning your press release as spam

The biggest mistake that businesses make is sending generic press releases that are directed to the wrong audience – immediately they become positioned as spam or just blatant advertising. You must convey information that is:

  • of interest or benefit to the reader or community
  • targeted correctly, and
  • well-written.

To see how not to position your press release, see my last post – Can the humble press release combat audience cynicism with advertising?.

Include contact details

Always include your contact details – phone, email and website are essential. The media may like to confirm a fact you have cited or organise a professional photo to accompany your story if you haven’t provided one. Some journalists will interview you to add a few additional quotes and ensure that their story is different to the media outlet next door. (If you are positioning someone else as the contact, ensure you obtain their permission first!)

Have it proofed – make it clean and crisp

A tight, well-written press release is far more likely to be published than one that is not, and running a spell-check is not enough! A proofing will not only check flow, grammar and sense, but can also ask the questions:

  • Is it relevant? Identify your audience and ensure the message is beneficial
  • Is it logical? Ensure it read swell for sense
  • Is it informative? You need to tell readers something that they don’t already know
  • Is it catchy? Your headline and first sentence are hooks, and need to stand out.

Editors are always pressed for time – the more complete your release, the less work they have to do and the quicker they can publish. And the earlier you can send it, the better!

Step 4: Format your press release correctly

A great press release is plain and simple. Media outlets want the information with no frills – you need to focus on the content, and not the design, to ensure that it is easily transferable to a variety of publishing platforms.

You can find more top tips from this awesome post by Kate Toon SEO Copywriter – An idiot’s guide to press releases.

Step 5: Communicate

Communication is vital, both internally and externally.

  • Email your press release to the relevant contacts – these may be for industry journals, local or State newspapers, networking or advocacy groups, magazine editors, or even media management and distribution groups such as iSentia – they will be unique to every business and industry
  • Brief your staff – This is the step many business owners overlook. Ensure all relevant internal staff members and stakeholders have been briefed so they can respond appropriately to any pre or post-publication enquiries.

If you don’t hear back immediately, don’t stalk the media – just be relevant, informative and organised.

Press releases – but one part of your media strategy

Press releases should form but one component of your overall media strategy. A good press release can provide a stepping-stone to positioning your business as an industry leader. A consistent press release strategy will build on this over time, gradually developing a brand reputation that cannot be achieved via advertising alone.

All it takes is a bit of your time, or an investment in a business copywriter, to provide you with a unique angle and develop publishable content – writing your press release well gives you a definite advantage, particularly in the scramble for digital content where electronic media outlets are desperately trying to develop ongoing content with limited resources.

Importantly, don’t look at press releases as an ad hoc response to an event – an effective media strategy should tie in with, and reinforce, your business planning. After all, you can’t create a newsworthy future by repeating the past!

Do press releases form part of your media strategy? Have they worked for you? Share your experiences – I’d love to hear your thoughts!
 
 
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Melinda Leyshon is a business copywriter with over 15 years experience in corporate publishing and strategy development. She has worked with some of Sydney's leading brands to deliver SEO and direct response copywriting, brand development and more. She has a huge success rate with business award applications and, throwing small business and corporate tenders into the mix, you have one of Australia's most experienced business copywriters! She also loves triathlon and has a serious penchant for licorice. And chocolate. Together.