How to write a press release that gets printed

Picture this…It’s 2018.

You’re a journalist with a million deadlines this week.

Your inbox threatens to close thanks to bulging emails.

Your escape from the world might be the few mins you spend scrolling through your twitter feed…

…so how on earth do they have the time to find, open and read your press release? Let alone flag it and run with it?

Don’t despair. I’ve been there. Flushing press releases out like there’s no tomorrow with little to no success (Hello, I’m a PR practitioner and I hate the press release. It’s OK to admit it) But I’ve learnt a few valuable lessons along the way and it turns out, hate is a strong word.

The good news- the press release is still very much alive! And it’s not something that you need to worry about. There was a time where everything hung on a good press release. Come on, hands up who’s drafted one with 9 quotes (because everyone wants a say!) paragraph upon paragraph of ‘useful’ information and a long list of editors notes and then sent it to everyone. Of course, before sending, it’s the sign-off lottery- everyone needs to see it. And then you send it to national media, local press, trade titles, your Auntie Sue…

Well, those days are over. No more quoting slightly relevant people, no more mass-sending and no more 8-page documents.

Yes, it’s true. Social media has and continues to dramatically change the landscape and operation of news. It’s instant. It’s accessible and it’s live. And it SHOULD be used. But please don’t put the press release to bed just yet.

A press release provides you with the tool to spread the word about your company, it’s doings and it’s offerings in a journalistic manner that’s focused on newsworthiness. It builds a reputation for your brand, offering journalists a ‘way-in’ other than through social. It also invites enquiries which can be a great way of reactive publicity (but don’t forget to plan for when the enquiries get a bit sticky…) I still find press releases useful and relevant and have had great results. Want to know my secrets? The secret is… there is no secret. It’s back to basics. It’s giving the journalists what they want when they want it- and making everyone’s lives easier!

Know how to write

Above all- this can make the difference of a printed article and a deleted email that didn’t quite get through the net. Don’t forget that this is your platform to tell the extended story. It’s worth investing (if you don’t already have the resource) in a professional writer or service for this- sometimes you can be too close to the subject. It’s also worth doing some work around what stories are fit for a press release versus a social media post. Non-news is tedious if sent out as a release. Although if written in an engaging way- can still get some success! For example, I’ve seen my press releases word-for-word printed. All that means is that I’ve nailed it for that particular editor. It was easy- a copy and paste job. The simple tenets of who, what, where, why and when can be easily applied but be careful not to spam with jargon. Keep it simple and tell the human-interest story behind the facts and figures. Oh and one major thing… proofread! Always. Bad grammar and spelling is a massive PR turn-off.

A headline that stands out

It’s all too easy to use a ‘matter of fact’ headline- it does what it says on the tin. But be creative! It’s your chance to wow the journalist. Give them something to read… to properly read. Spark their curiosity. Play around with headlines.

“Train company announces latest engine” vs “Almost human- the engine that thinks for itself is launched by company name”… see what I mean?

Own it

Everything requires a sign off- but if you’re the PR professional for your company, then don’t be afraid to let people know. You’re the expert when it comes to keywords, key messages and call-to-actions. Obviously, there will be a sign-off process and of course, it’s fine for people to offer suggestions or correct facts and figures but stand strong on language and tone. If you can direct people to brand and language guidelines to help fight your corner, then even better. You’re the one that sprinkles the personality into the story, so don’t lose that.

Collaborate

The news is so saturated with everyone trying to get their message out, that right now, collaboration is key. I’ve found this a great tool when trying to tell a story that might be a common one- it gets stale very quickly. But if you can partner up with like-minded organisations and/or companies who compliment your service or product then this could really enhance your pick-up. Don’t see it as a fight for space- see it as double the push-out.

Distribute effectively

Important… very important. You’ve gone to all that trouble and now you’re ready to send it! Maybe it has national potential? Maybe it’s a niche market? Don’t assume that just because you have an email address for the particular channel that you automatically have a way in. This bit requires your sass. Try and speak to the journalist in the first instance. If you don’t have a relationship with them already- start building it. Call them, tweet them (see- everything works in tandem!) Get their appetite going. If you get through- sell them your story and ask what they require. Don’t forget to get deadlines. If you don’t get any answer- start with email but make sure you follow up. And personalise it. I mean, I love it when I receive personalised content from the brands I buy (I’m a sucker, I know) so do the same for your contacts. Yes, it takes time, but it’s worth it.

If you don’t have the resources in-house then why not pop in and speak to us? We’re a friendly bunch and we love to meet new people and help where we can. * Get in touch today!

*We’re also partial to a game of table football in our office lounge… anyone??

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