Two of the most common phrases people use to find the Copycation blog include “How to write press releases” and “How to promote press releases.” Hence, the unimaginative title of this post–”How to Write and Promote a Press Release.”
Got to give them want they want, no?
First thing’s first, though. Before you spend resources on writing, approving, promoting and publishing a release, you really should ask yourself if the news is A) important and B) if it’s actually going to be read by anyone. That means no fluff. It also means coming up with topics that would actually be of value to readers. That’s why you have a VP of Corporate Communications or hire a PR pro or agency.
Off we go.
Press Release Headline
- Make it pithy. Your headline is the most important part. It’s what get readers clicking on the release…or away.
- Keep it short. Usually, headlines should be less than three lines.
- Try to use active language. Active is stimulating. Passive is boring. Say “I write killer press releases.” Not “Killer press releases are written by me.”
- Egos aside, remember it’s often better to focus on the impact on the company–or better, the community. What’s more exciting: “Firm X Hires Real Estate Attorney John Doe”, or “Firm X Launches Real Estate Practice”? The first one would only be of interest to publications that cover attorney hires. The second would be of interest to publications that cover attorney hires, the real estate industry, the legal profession, the local community and general business. You can get into the attorney in the subhead or lead.
- Avoid too many proper names (such as other companies) in a headline. Your message gets lost.
- Consider a subhead if you want to quickly communicate the impact of your news or if you have a lot of proper names to mention.
- Use large, bolded text for headlines.
- Get to the news right away! The lead is often the only part that gets read. I have written only one anecdotal lead in my experience as a PR person and only because the story was more powerful than the news.
- Avoid unnecessary words such as “Company X announces…” Even the biggest firms and agencies use this language, but it’s redundant. Of course you’re announcing something. That’s what press releases are for!
- If you’re going to tell what your company does in the lead, do so in as few words as possible. The news will get lost.
- Make sure you put the date and city in the dateline.
Other Writing Tips
- Watch your grammar. Bad grammar says a ton about a company–none of it good. Hint–refer to people as “who”, not “that”.
- Avoid puffery and corporate speak. Press releases are supposed to be factual. They should read somewhat like a news article. Phrases such as “leading provider” don’t fool anyone. If some organization says you are the leading provider, prove it somewhere in the copy…with a source.
- Succinctly tell readers what your company does high up in the copy. Get to differentiation lower in the copy.
- Quote feeling, not fact. “This new market represents an amazing opportunity…”said CEO John Doe. That’s feeling. “We are a software provider that does x, y and z…” That’s fact.
- Know that quotes are not necessary. Seriously. If your company just won an award, is it really going to accomplish anything with the cliché, “We’re honored…” Yes, there are times your release needs no quotes at all!
- Use hyperlinks to relevant pages on your website.
- Use bullets and subheads to break up thoughts.
- Use bold text for proper names (people and companies). This makes it easier to spot and gives the eye a break.
- Use the “inverted pyramid” style of writing. That is, the news up top and the facts supporting that news toward the bottom.
- Use Associated Press style. This should be the accepted style of all your marketing communications not only because that is how most reporters write but also because most of it makes very good sense.
- Don’t over-think length. As long as your news is in the lead, does it really matter if the rest is too long? For really important news, a lot of content can really help reporters out by giving them key facts. It can help you out by making sure your messaging points are right there. They don’t have to read everything, but I see no harm in having long press releases as long as you don’t bury the news. On the flip side, I also don’t see harm in a release that takes up just a few paragraphs.
- Your contact info should be on each release, even the one you’re posting on your site. Don’t make people work to find you.
- Don’t underestimate the boilerplate. This section at the bottom of a release is often read by people to get a fuller understanding of what it is you actually do.
Promoting Press Releases
Here are some tips on getting the word out:
- Do your homework first. Establish a list of reporters you are targeting. Don’t waste their time with fluff. And don’t send a release on your new software version to the Lifestyle editor. That Lifestyle editor might ignore you when you actually have a good feature idea for the Lifestyle section. Again, that is why you have a VP of Communications or a PR account executive on your team.
- Know that reporters want scoops. Offer one reporter the news before you publish or send to other reporters. This will establish a rapport. NEVER tell someone you are giving him or her a scoop and not oblige. Rightly so, this can get you blacklisted.
- When sending your news to reporters, know they are getting hundreds of releases sent to them. Copy and paste the release into the e-mail. It’s much more likely to be read that way.
- Use premium wires such as Marketwire and BusinessWire for big news. Use free services such as PRLog and Citybizlist for all news. You can use both to maximize your exposure.
That’s not all–I didn’t even touch on social media–but I don’t want to give away everything in one post!
I hope these tips help. If you like what you see, please let me know. Also, if I might have missed something, or if you disagree with any of these, feel free to opine.