How to write a great press release

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Last night I gave a talk at a seminar organised by my BNI chapter. The aim was to help local businesses survive and thrive in the current economic climate. My 10 minutes was dedicated to using the press and radio as a cost-effective part of your marketing strategy. For just the cost of your time or a copywriter writing a press release you could raise awareness of your company in the local area.

Here’s a run-down of my main tips for writing a great press release.

What do journalists want?

  • No promotional guff. Journalists are not going to run a business profile on you, just because your business is ‘great’.
  • The journalist isn't interested in promoting your company, helping you up sales or driving visitors to your website. He's looking for a news story that readers or listeners will find interesting or useful.

You need a newsworthy angle
Look through your local press – what type of stories do they run? Business stories could be about:

  • Change/innovative ideas
  • Events
  • Training schemes your people have passed
  • Awards you’ve won
  • New recruits
  • Company growth/relocation
  • New markets you’ve uncovered
  • Weird trends you’ve spotted
  • Results of a survey you’ve done
  • Celebrity endorsements
  • Charity work.

Offer yourself as an expert
Let the press and radio know you’re available to comment on news in your area of expertise or provide a regular advice slot.

How to write the press release

  • Journalists will respond to well-written and informative press releases
  • Avoid hyperbole. Be objective. Your story should be able to stand on its own merits without words such as amazing, fantastic or great. The reader should be able to tell something is great from the facts. And if you say something is unique or the world’s no.1 you need to be able to back it up
  • No buzzwords or jargon. Use the 95% rule – unless 95% of your readers will understand it, don’t use it. Or at least explain it
  • Avoid the past tense – especially in headlines. It makes the story seem old
  • Write in the third person, “XYZ company did this”, not “we did this” – exception is quotes
  • Keep it short and punchy – one to two pages
  • Goes without saying – make sure there are no typos.

Who, Where, Why, What, When and How
If you answer all of these questions in your press release the journalist should have everything he needs to know about the story.

Don’t bury the news
Think news first, background second. Put all the important information in the first paragraph. Don’t bury the news angle and make journalists work to find it.

And finally… photos

  • Supplied photos must be at least 300dpi – print quality – and in focus. If the picture is blurred or too dark the paper’s designers can’t improve them
  • Avoid firing squad line-ups, boring handshakes or huge groups of people – you won’t be able to see everyone
  • Interesting poses and props will get you noticed.

I'd love to hear your tips so please share them in the comments.

And get in touch if you would like assistance writing a press release or need a professional eye cast over one you’ve written.