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How a press release is written and structured can be even more important today than in decades past. There are mutliple reasons for this. The media expect smaller employees to publish more stories faster. A well-written press release may be exactly what a reporter is looking for to quickly turn a story for his editor.
At the same time, email has made it easy to send mass press releases and flood reporters' inboxes. While press releases can be a great tool for generating media coverage, there is a lot of competition. It is important to write in a way that catches the journalist's attention, but also tells the story in a clear style with any critical information.
Below are six tips for writing effective press releases.
1. Understand that a blog and a press release are completely different
A common mistake for businesses is to assume that a press release and blog are interchangeable. A press release is a more formal recitation of the facts by a third party where your goal is to get the reporter to write their own story based on the facts you provided. In comparison, a blog is often a more casual article written in a first-person voice and often written with marketing goals in mind.
When writing a blog, you are essentially the reporter telling others what to do or how to think about a particular problem. When writing a press release, your goal is to get a reporter to understand that the information you are sharing is timely enough to warrant writing their own story about it. If you structure your press release like a blog, most reporters will delete it without reading it because it will be read as being too selfish.
Related: A press release can still be one of the most effective marketing tools – if you have the right contacts
2. Follow a top-down structure
Think of your press release like a pyramid with the most important facts at the top. Like the top of a pyramid, you don't have a lot of space, so you need to be direct and precise with the information you wrap up there. Fill in the details and "additional" facts in the base of your pyramid (paragraphs four or five of the press release).
Why is that so important? A reporter will only read the first paragraph before deciding whether to finish reading the press release and move on to the next. If you can't easily highlight the most important key element of your announcement in the first paragraph, it's not worth reading on, especially with 100 more emails to consider in your inbox.
Here's another reason why the top-down structure is so important. For example, suppose your entire press release consists of five paragraphs. When a newspaper publishes your press release word for word, it will do so based on the space available. If you remove the last paragraph of your press release, do the first four paragraphs still tell a full story? What if they only have three paragraphs (or just two)? Always put key information at the top of a press release so that if the publication is cut it still tells a full story.
3. Get to the point
Remember that the idea of a press release is to get the reporter to write their own story, not that you write it for them. Don't write a long introductory section explaining a problem – it's your job to create the story for your audience. Your job is to explain how you are the solution or are relevant to the bigger story. An enema with a sentence or two may be fine. However, if you need a paragraph before mentioning the company name or your announcement, don't write an effective press release that will get the results you want.
4. Draft meaningful quotations
The second or third paragraph of your press release should include a quote from an important source that helps how you intend to tell the story. By including meaningful quotes, you can add some subjectivity to the story and help reporters understand why your company or source is relevant to the story you are setting up.
Creating the perfect quote can be a daunting task. A bad quote is usually so general that it doesn't benefit the story to include it. Most people, even successful CEOs, may not know how to create an offer that will contribute to the goals of a press release. Rather than asking your source to give you a quote to use, I strongly encourage you to come up with a proposed draft and include it directly in your press release. Then go to the source with the full draft and ask for changes or permission to use the quote.
The same applies to partners that you may refer to in the version, e.g. B. a new customer or a satisfied partner. You want to create a full quote for these partners, praising your company by name, explaining why they like you so much, etc. If they approve the quote you created, you now have a testimonial that can be used to refer to the news article where the quote was posted or the press release posted on your website.
Related: Is It Really Worth the Money to Send a Press Release?
5. Add a heating plate
Some call it a boilerplate, others call it a section about us. The goal of the boilerplate is to help reporters understand more about your company when they refer to your company in their story. A clear and well-written boilerplate will help reporters accurately describe your company in their reporting.
At the end of your press release, you'll want to include an "About" header followed by a short, consistent paragraph that explains what your company does, what your company's mission is, where it is headquartered, and other relevant information. At the end of the paragraph, make sure to also add a hyperlinked URL to your company's website.
6. Add formatting.
After you've written the press release, you need to go back and add the standard formatting for a press release. This contains:
- The headline. Keep your headline short and direct, including your company name if possible. Try to set a length of 100 characters for the entire heading. The subject line of the email should be even shorter as most email subject previews are only about 50 characters long before they are truncated.
- The dateline. At the beginning of your first paragraph, include in capital letters the name of the city and state where the company is located, followed by the date the publication will be distributed. Put both the place and the date in the same parentheses. With a date line, reporters can quickly understand how current a story is and where the story came from.
- Add links. Go through your publication again and link the name to the appropriate website page for the first mention of your company, the product. You don't have to do this every time it is mentioned, just the first time and over and over again in the hot plate.
- The break. After the "About Us" section or the boilerplate, you want to add a "break" which is just a new line with either three pound signs (###) or "-30-" centered on its side. This will signal to the reporter that they have reached the end of the official press release. Below this line you should provide the contact information for the media contact. PR folks might say they prefer to use "###" or "-30-" – and it's one of those silly industry discussions – but for this article all you need to know is that nothing below the fault line isn't running may be openly seen in a reporter's story for the public to see. Trust me, you don't want your personal cell phone to be accidentally listed at the end of a story seen by thousands. Because of this, media contact information is always displayed below the pause.
Before I receive any hate mail from other PR professionals, I would like to add the following. These suggestions are a little shabby for an effective press release. If you know AP Style, reporters prefer that you follow it as it will save them time rewriting your information. There are many other formatting nuances and styles that will work as well.
Just as there are many ways to write a successful press release, there are still a million ways to get it wrong. Ultimately, you need a format that works for you but still meets reporters' expectations for them to recognize you as a viable news source and media contact. Following these directions listed above will help you generate more positive reporting in order to meet your business goals.