Journalists receive hundreds of press releases every day. As a PR professional, I’m responsible for writing many of them. As a former trade media editor, I’ve received my fair share too. Hopefully, these experiences give me some authority on what makes a good one and how to avoid the most common mistakes.
A press release is an extremely effective way of making news, generating publicity or attracting more business. Each one should also have a target audience in mind, whether that’s new or existing customers, investors or the general public.
There are many reasons to distribute a press release, from promoting a new product or service to announcing a new contract, hire or merger. It ensures that your news reaches multiple platforms, including national news media, trade or sector-specific publications, social media and online blogs.
But writing a press release that grabs the attention of a journalist or reader is trickier than you’d think. Research has found that the average journalist spends less than a minute reading releases that land in their inbox.
To ensure that your email doesn’t head straight to the trash folder, here are my top tips on how to write a press release.
1. Grab the reader’s attention with a good headline
You only have seven seconds to make a good impression. The same goes for press releases. A headline should be short, sharp and clear. Avoid jargon or buzzwords and make sure you capture as much of the broader message as possible. A great headline will make the rest of the press release easier to write.
2. Remember the five Ws
One of the first lessons I learned as a junior editor was “write a press release as if it were a news story”. One that’s poorly written or oddly formatted is likely to put off the journalist. If you’ve ever studied English language or take a writing course, you probably know the five W’s: Who, What, When, Where, Why. Structuring the release in this order, especially when you include the information within the first paragraph, will grab the reader’s attention.
3. Keep it short
Unless it’s absolutely necessary, you should limit the text to a single page. As we’ve discussed, the aim of the game is to hook the journalist or target reader. If you need to add more information about a product or service, don’t hesitate to include hyperlinks to the relevant webpages.
4. Don’t forget SEO
These days, most of your target audience will find the press release through Google searches, so it’s important to write copy that is search engine-friendly. Link your company in the body of the text, not just the boilerplate at the bottom. As you hope the press release will be posted on various sites, this is a good way to get backlinks (a URL link that sends the reader to another site). It’s also worthwhile thinking about keywords – consider how you want to position your company and what customers should type in to find you.
5. Explain why the journalist should be interested
The email you send with the press release is just as important. It’s an opportunity to tell the journalist why it matters to them. Don’t send everyone the same blurb. Make an effort to connect the story in the press release with the journalist’s beat or the magazine’s content. Whatever you do, don’t write a generic greeting like ‘Hi!’ and remember to keep it short.
Get in touch to find out how Magenta can help you write press releases that reaches your target audience.