Eight quick tips for writing a press release

HTCP feature

In a previous copywriting blog we covered: Writing a press release – getting started.

Once you have decided on your audience and thought about whether the core message of your press release is newsworthy, you need to get down to writing the press release.

Here are eight tips to help you put your press release together.

 

1. Write a good press release header

Think of your press release header as a headline. If you read your header in a newspaper, would it grab your interest and make you want to read on? If not, you need to think again.

If you’re struggling with the header, put it to one side and come back to it once you’ve finished your piece. You may want to include a bit of wordplay (see below) or address the reader directly, as I did with a press release for a creative writing course: ‘Want to write a novel and get published? Take advice from the Book Doctor’ – which was used by the local paper.

2. Grab attention with the first line

The first line of your press release should be short but sweet. Don’t try and explain everything in one go. You’ll get in a muddle and end up with a sentence that is too long and doesn’t clearly explain the story.

A good example would be if your company had won some new business. The first line simply needs to state this. Following lines can explain more detail, such as where your company is based, how long it has been going, how it won the contract etc.

3. Read and dissect newspapers

Buy your local newspaper, look at the stories and you’ll see patterns emerging. News stories often have a similar structure and you can follow this in your press release: headline, opening statement, elaboration on the story, a quote from someone involved and a paragraph to sum up with background information on the company/story.

4. The importance of grammar, spelling and consistency

Be professional and make sure your grammar and spelling is correct. There are spell checks and grammar books to help you with this, or ask a friend or colleague to proof read your press release before it goes out.

Keep things consistent: if your company name is ‘Smith & Son’ don’t substitute ‘Smith and Son’. I would normally refer to a company in the singular – ‘Smith & Son is a family-run company’ – but again, the important element is consistency.

5. To pun or not to pun?

If you’re writing a serious press release or one on a highly technical subject, it’s best to stick to factual straightforward language that clearly explains your subject matter. Otherwise, playing with words – as long as you avoid anything too cheesy or laboured – can catch the journalists’ attention and make the story more memorable.

When I started the Coffee & Cake Business Network, I suggested in my press release that local businesses might be keen to get a slice of the cake. The newspaper went with the headline ‘Let them eat cake, says Michelle’.

6. Include a quote from a named spokesperson

Including a quote within your press release will add a human dimension and break up the story. It also saves the journalist having to phone up and source a quote.

7. Send your press release to the right contact at the right time

Call the newspaper/radio station/magazine and find out the right contact for your story. Ask what their lead time is, for example, the main business pages of the Huddersfield Examiner appear on a Tuesday, so I will generally try to get a story to the business editor by the Thursday beforehand.

8. Follow up with a call

If you don’t hear anything, leave it a couple of days and call. Ask politely if they received your press release and if it’s a story they might be interested in running. Make sure they have all the information they need. Don’t call when they are on deadline – for a daily newspaper it’s best to avoid any time after 3pm. And check the paper, or online, before you call to be sure they haven’t already run the story.

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