5 Ways to Write a Better Press Release
Back when I worked for the daily paper in Roswell, NM, I’d find a stack of 50 press releases waiting for me at my desk each morning. It was the same for the other two news reporters at the Roswell Daily Record; that means there were hundreds of press releases floating around our tiny newsroom every single day. How did we decide what stories to pitch to our editor and which to let die? Here’s how write a winning press release.
1. Pick a timely angle.
The goal of media is to give people pertinent, timely information about a certain community or industry. If your story involves an event, share its date in your lead. If your story ties into another topic in the news, stress that connection. Show the reporter why your story should be published right now rather than three months down the road.
There are such things as “evergreen” stories. These features are typically issue stories or personal profiles that are relevant but can be published anytime. If your story falls into this category, try to tie it into something going on in the current news cycle. The longer reporters wait to cover your story, the more likely it is that something more enticing will come along.
2. Do your homework.
Think about what questions someone would have about your story, and answer them in your press release. Provide figures and market research to elevate your story when possible. A press release that includes concrete details shows reporters that you’ve put a little effort into your pitch. No reporter wants to waste precious time on a story that could fall through.
3. Make it publishing-ready.
With news staffs getting slimmer by the minute, time is not on a reporter’s side. Show media professionals some common courtesy by writing your release to fit their publication’s standards. Use Associated Press style and write a strong lead that answers the basic questions. The goal is to send a press release that could go to print without any changes; that happens more than you think, especially at small publications.
4. Keep it short, sweet and on one page.
Concise is king. Why? Two reasons. Reporters should be able to get a good grasp of your story from the first few sentences of your release. If they have to spend extra time wading through long paragraphs and wandering run-on sentences, your press release will get tossed. Also, I can attest to how frequently a second page of a press release gets lost in the newsroom abyss. Keep it to one page.
5. Don’t be blatantly promotional.
The biggest turnoff for any journalist is a story that smells like “pseudo news.” This is the reason why “PR” became a dirty word in the first place. If your press release reads like a blatant promo for your latest project, it won’t get covered. To avoid this fate, emphasize the bigger impact and the other involved parties.
Here’s an example: I handle marketing for a business that donates a portion of its product sales to charity. Rather than stress the company’s program for giving back, I wrote a release on the charities who received the funds and how that money is benefitting the local community. I had reporters calling me within minutes of sending the release. Contrary to popular belief, “feel-good” stories do get covered!
Sometimes, stories go viral without much rhyme or reason. But in today’s media hustle and bustle, a high-quality press release that reads like a real story will set you apart from the pack. Take it from this reporter: for journalists, pseudo news never sells.