How to Write a Press Release that Gets Results

Writing a press release involves a very clear set of rules. Too often business are quick to issue a press release without stopping to even question if a press release is warranted. If the press release is not newsworthy, no one is going to pick it up, completely defeating the goal of getting coverage and raising awareness among your target audience. One you’ve determined, yes, we have something newsworthy to say, it’s important that you abide by very clear rules – rules that make your press release easily adaptable and useful to journalists.

Cover a Newsworthy Topic
Keeping in mind that people are most interested in new news, be prepared to give readers something they haven’t heard before, may find surprising, or something that may reveal a useful solution to a problem. Make sure the topic covered is of interest to those outside of your business, and is something people would have a reason to care about. If you don’t have anything that meets these criteria, then it is best to wait until you have a topic that does. If you’re unsure whether your topic makes the grade, pay attention to what type of articles are being published in the type of news sources you’d want to see your press release being covered in, and then determine if your topic is one they’d likely cover.

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Write an Attention Grabbing Headline
Press releases are typically emailed to journalists, and any given journalist may receive hundreds of emails a day. Make it simple for the journalist to identify your press release by identifying it as such at the beginning with a compelling headline. The subject line is also of the utmost importance here, and should be something that grabs the reader’s attention. The subject line should be clear and concise, as the reader will not take the time to figure it out if it is unclear. If you’re a fashion house releasing a new clothing line, cut right to the chase with something like, “Press Release – New Urban-Inspired Menswear Line.” The reader will appreciate the brevity in getting to the point.

The Opening Statement
The very first sentence of your press release must be compelling and spark enough of the reader’s interest for them to go further. In 15-20 words, try to give a summary of the press release that reads like the opening of a news story. Journalists focus heavily on the five “Ws”: who, what, where, why, and when. In reviewing new stories, you’ll see examples of this time and time again. Encapsulate as much of this information as you can in your opening line summary.

Another direction you can go in for an opening line that elicits interest is imagining your press release being covered on TV or radio and the speaker has just 5-6 seconds to offer something that will pique the listener’s interest. “Coming up next, we’ll tell you why a local tech firm is partnering with local schools to offer free computer programming classes.” Consider how a radio or TV announcer would “tease” your story and there you have the top line of your story.

Keep It Pithy
A typical press release should be between 300 and 400 words, or the length of the average short news story. Shoot for three to four paragraphs and a couple of quotes, much more may be unnecessary and has the potential to overwhelm the reader. Background information about your company, and any other information not directly related to the press release topic should be noted separately from the press release. This additional information does not need to be considered in your word count. Feel free to use sub headings and bullet points to break the text into more easily digestible sections, especially when using figures or statistics.

Quotes Should Give Insight, Not Information
Quotes can be helpful, and journalists will often use them word for word in a printed article. Quotes should be of the nature of something a person would say, statements that give insight and opinion, as opposed to providing information. A quote might be, “We’re excited about the development of DarSoft+, because we feel it addresses a real need in the area of education,” rather than, “Over 3,000 kids in the local district are currently reading below grade level, and DarSoft+ can help increase reading proficiency by 32%.” Avoid jargon and technical language in quotes.

Final Thoughts
To help increase your chances of getting details of your press release published or shared consider tweaking the ideas and the release so that it is more specific for different publications and programs. Include a short outline above the press release and indicate where you think the information is a good fit for the media outlet to which it is offered.
Include photos or a short video if they may be helpful, but keep the file sizes small so they are quick to download and don’t take up too much space in the inbox. Photos increase engagement with press releases by about 18%, videos – 55%.

Saturday and Sunday are the best days for your press release to get media attention, as these can be slow news days and journalists may have less selection available to them.

Be realistic in your expectations, realizing you may have to send the press release to multiple outlets, and sometimes more than one time, before you will see it covered. Be determined and willing to learn, and you’ll greatly increase the likelihood of success.

About the Author:

Richard Sutherland writes about digital marketing, social media and business. You can read his other articles here at the blog. 


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