Through working with companies like Sennheiser and Audio Technica, and the fantastic teams they have, I learnt an awful lot when it comes to developing interesting, engaging and relevent Press Release articles. Here are some of the tips i picked up to help you present your article in the right way.
A good proportion of PR today is focused towards generating good (and ideally free) publicity in the news and media. The key in my opinion is to write it in such a way that it appears as a news story. Don’t try and make it look like an advertisement for your business. Ultimately, your story being published will wholly depend on how good your press release is written, if it engages the reader and generates excitement in the subject matter.
- Ensure you head it up as ‘Press Release’. Try and ensure you find out the name of the particular journalist responsible for the section you would like it to appear in, and address the press release to that individual.
- Organise your content. When writing, put the paragraphs in order of their importance.
- Include all important information in the first couple of paragraphs, but try and ensure it flows and is compact.
- Much like an advertisement, give your content an engaging title. It will encourage the reader to read the entire thing. Be prepared for it to be edited though.
- Draw further attention to the piece by following the press release up with a phone call – but ideally, only if you have last minute alterations to add to the story
- Write with the publications readers in mind. Use jargon for any technical press but keep it simple for any local publications.
- Ensure you include up to date contact details with the story and include an out of hours contact number.
- Ensure you remain credible by checking spelling and grammar efficiently, and then double check to be sure.
- Try to use no more than 60 words per paragraph.
- Use double spacing to allow for much easier editing.
- Write a separate “Note to editors” detailing all relevant background information.
So what makes a decent story?
Being honest, not everything you do as a company will be interesting or relevant to the world outside, and too many dull press releases run the risk of alienating journalists who could help you long term.
Business announcements, be they sales or product launches, are all P.R worthy news stories that regularly appear in a wide variety of trade and specialist magazines. However, a different approach to make the current news in the business press is to actively comment on important issues in that sector or alternatively commission a survey and present your findings.
It can be extremely difficult to get your business news in any of the local press. It will quite often take a human interest spin on these stories to achieve this. Any involvement in charity events and organisations can be a good example of this, and can be a good way to publicise your business.
Try and build working relationships with the media as this will also aid coverage.
Your press release vitally needs to stand out and give the journalist all the facts. Ensure you begin with a good heading. Keep it simple, to the point and make it impactful. If it’s good enough it may be utilised in their publication.
Every good news story must cover 5 things:
Who? What? Where? When? Why?
Ensure your press release answers these important questions.
The structure is also vital and must flow logically. Use quotes, short paragraphs, and if necessary, bullet-points. Make it apparent that the document is a press release. Ensure it states ‘Press Release’ at the top and ‘End of Release’ at the bottom, before all of your contact details. All essential information should be summarised in a final paragraph.
Prior to writing and issuing a press release, you should ask yourself two questions.
Firstly, “Is there value in this story? And secondly, “Does it deserve a release?”
All too often organisations feel obliged to write press releases that are quite simply just not newsworthy. And if the journalist doesn’t consider it newsworthy, it won’t get published anyway. Your aim is to get coverage and raise awareness among your target audiences. Writing the correct story is key.
If you believe you have a worthy story to tell, you need to draft your release abiding by very clear rules. These rules are designed to make it as easy as possible for journalists to use your material.
The Stuff You Should Include
- Who? Who is the news focused around? ( your business, other individuals of importance involved with the product. Who does your news affect/who does it benefit? Who is it focused at?
- Why? Why is this news important? What does it bring that is different?
- What? What is new with your business?
- How? How did this event come about?
- Where? Where is this news happening? Geographical angle? is the business location of relevant importance?
- When? What is the timing of this news? Does this add any significance?
I find writing down the answers to these questions prior to beginning writing the press release can be extremely helpful in focusing the story. The story then needs to be constructed in an engaging manner. It may take some time before the press release is finally completed, and most press releases go through multiple drafts before they are 100% right.
I would like to mention that it is actually quite common for the article to be printed with no further follow-up with the sender. Also, many editors will edit from the bottom of a press release up to best ensure all the most important points are at the top of the article.
The timing of the release. Embargo or immediate.
Ensure you state at the top of the release if it is for immediate release or currently under embargo. If currently under embargo be sure to state the relevant date. This can be important, particularly for legal reasons. Usually immediate release will be perfectly fine. Journalists can find it tedious and frustrating to receive information under embargo as it cannot be published straight away. However, an embargo on a release does not mean that journalists are unable to contact you about it.
Next, you need to give your article a title. The title should be thought out, and is used to grab attention and persuade the journalist to continue reading. However, most journalists and editors will alter the title anyway.
The number of paragraphs that follow will always vary but you need to try and ensure all the vital information is in the initial paragraph. If only the first paragraph was printed, yet the whole story is understandable, then you have a successful release on your hands.
The second paragraph typically expands on the information in the previous, but giving a bit more detail and explanation. The third paragraph often provides a quote from the business and the fourth paragraph outlines final information such as websites or mentions other products in development.
You can confirm the end of the press release with the word “Ends” in bold. After “Ends”, write “For further information, please contact” and write all of your details or those of an appointed person. Also ensure you give a mobile number so you can be contacted outside of office hours.
Any further information can be included in a small “Notes to editors” section beneath the contact information. Examples might include a boilerplate (information on the company), or any info on available photos.
Picking Your Targets
Thorough research on the press and media you will be targeting is extremely vital. It will make sure you look professional and know what you are doing. Try to get hold of any back copies of publications and tune in to any relevant radio and TV programmes. This will enable you to tailor your story to suit the publication. In the case of a product launch, there may be significant mileage in targeting the following:
- The local press (the area in which the company is based)
- Specialist press (the company’s sector)
- Specialist press (read by people who will benefit from the news in the release)
- Consumer press (if there is a more mainstream benefit)
- National press (if there is significant impact or change)
When you do your research, identify working patterns and deadlines. Many weekly local papers, for example, have a Tuesday deadline for Thursday publication.
Generally, email is the best method to make contact with chosen journalists. Treat the subject line of the email as the title, to grab the journalist’s attention. Any release sent by email should be pasted into the email rather than attached as many press and media organisations have an automatic block on email attachments for security. Also, avoid a jpeg logo where possible. Journalists are constantly inundated with emails, so follow up your emailed press release with a telephone call to check receipt and help push your release. You won’t appear pushy.
As with any form of marketing, PR works best when your name is seen on a regular basis. Since not every press release is going to be published, this means that you must have a strategy of sending out maybe two or three a month, depending on how serious your intentions are.
Different publications will have different deadlines. Find out what these are and draw up a list for easy reference. There is nothing to stop you sending a press release out early, and putting a date embargo on it until it is time to be published.
I hope this has been useful.