There’s something exciting happening with your business, and you want to tell the world. That’s great, congratulations! But before you sit down to hammer out a press release, consider this: editors and journalists are flooded with them every day. If yours doesn’t immediately stand out, it won’t get read, let alone published.
These tips will help you write an attention-grabbing press release worthy of media coverage.
Study the news
To impress an editor or journalist, you need to think like one.
“If you want journalists to pick up your press release, you need to make it as easy for them to republish your content as possible,” said Matt Ambrose, founder and senior copywriter at The Copywriter’s Crucible.
“Try to write it more like a news story about solving a customer’s problem or how the product overcame a key industry challenge, rather than a straight product pitch.”
The best way to understand how journalists present news is to study their work. Pick up a paper and start reading! You may also want to tweak your media release for specific publications. For example, more technical information may be appropriate for a trade magazine in your industry. The easiest way to find out exactly what a publication is looking for is to analyze its content.
Will anyone care?
What you consider a dramatic development in your business may not be of interest to the news-reading public. Put yourself in the reader’s shoes. Will your information be exciting to them? Is it surprising or unexpected? Will it affect them in any way?
One of the biggest mistakes businesses make with their media releases is writing them like advertisements rather than news stories.
“Clients obviously want their press release to be singing their praises and to make their product sound as ‘revolutionary’ as possible,”Ambrose said. “But unless the press release has some ‘meat’ to back up the claims, your news announcement isn’t going to be of interest to anybody.”
Make your subject line shine
Imagine an editor or journalist sitting at their desk in the morning with an overflowing inbox. What are they going to do?
They’re going to take a deep breath, have a big sip of coffee, and quickly browse the subject lines. They’ll click on the ones that pique their interest.
“Be interesting!” Ashley Poynter, chief storyteller at Content Rewired, said. “If you’re trying to get someone’s attention, simply copying and pasting the title of your press release into your email subject line isn’t going to cut it. Write a compelling headline that begs the recipient to open it. Get creative but stick to the point.”
While Poynter’s wisdom sounds simple, it’s a challenge in practice.
“The best advice I can give is to distill the entire press release down to one value statement or ‘POW! Point.’ Then shorten it and add some intrigue,” she said. “Questions can sometimes work well as subject lines if written correctly.”
Reel them in
If your press release email gets opened, you’re off to a good start, but still a long way from the finish line. Use a “hook,” the most important, newsworthy aspect of your story, to draw an editor or journalist in and compel them to read on.
“A hook is essential,” Ambrose said. “A press release that has a core ‘big idea’ on addressing a key industry challenge in a new or novel way is more likely to generate clicks, website visits and emails.”
To ensure your hook does its job, place it at the beginning of the press release, make it concise and get straight to the point.
“To find a hook, think about your news announcement from a customer’s perspective: Why should your product matter to them? What problem does it solve in a new or better way?” Ambrose said. “Also see if there’s anything in the news you can tie your product, or ‘newsjacking,’ as PR guru David Meerman Scott calls it.”
To see effective hooks in action, go back to studying news articles.
Short and sweet
The ideal length for a press release is 300 to 500 words, which is roughly one side of an A4 page.
Be selective about the information you include. What’s necessary for the article to make sense? What’s interesting? What’s relevant to the reader? Stay focused on that “big idea.” You can also break up the text with subheadings and dot points to make it easier to scan the important information.
Quotes can add color and personality to a press release, but knowing how to use them properly is vital.
“Quotes can be a great way to bring information to life. There are some things best delivered straight from the mouth of a thought leader or senior executive or spokesperson,” Poynter said.
“Often time, however, you see quotes that are simply restating what you’ve already read in the press release; this is a mistake. If you’re quoting someone, the quote should include elements you wouldn’t be able to include otherwise: passion, personal experience, or an anecdote that really brings the rest of the press release to life.”
Never open with a quote, either, as it is considered amateurish.
Put it in the body
It’s best to send your press release in the body of an email. The easier it is to access, the more likely it is to be read.
“People are busy. To me, it’s common courtesy to link to the press release, so people can click through and see the content right away,” Poynter said. “Attachments can be pesky and it’s just an additional hassle – another hoop – that you’re making editors or whomever jump through.”
Check out examples of press releases by Matt here. If you still need help, consider hiring an experienced copywriter with press release know-how.