SO…how good is your press release?
Do you have press releases that are well written and focused and that can bring in some great publicity, visibility and credibility to your business? Press release coverage provides wider visibility than most advertisements, is perceived as credible (unlike most advertising) and of course, media coverage is free publicity!
Of course, the key here is the fact that your press releases need to be well written and focused. The reality is that, out of the hundreds press releases issued daily, very few are actually used by media professionals and producers.
Why is that? Occasionally it’s solely a question of available time or space, however, it’s far more common for a press release to be rejected because the writer doesn’t understand the how to write them.
If you’ve been having difficulty getting results with your media releases, maybe it’s time for a little studying. Here’s a quick quiz to take prior to you sending out your next news release.
1) Have you got news to say?
You’ve got to give news to get news coverage. A business expansion is news and so is an award or industry-specific certifications. Sponsorship of events, changes in senior personnel, the announcement of a corporate position, and a specific event is also considered “news-worthy.” Human interest stories are doable, but call for a special kind of method. (More on this later.)
2) Does your news release do what it’s designed to do?
Every media release should be written with a purpose in mind. A press release without a purpose has no focus and won’t go anywhere (especially not into print).
3) What’s the hook?
There are essentially two ways to write a media release:
- News item
- News feature
Both have their uses, but stay constant all through your press release. Slipping from news-style to feature or vice-versa results in an problematic, ineffective release.
In a news style release, present the most key facts first and work your way from these facts to the background information. Cover all 5 “W”s of journalism: The who, what, where, when and why. Model a newspaper or wire service to make it read well.
If you’re writing in the feature style, the rules are a little more relaxed. The idea here is to entertain, then inform. Pull the reader in with the details. For a few ideas on how to form this sort of piece, have a look at magazine feature articles and human interest stories from newspapers to see how it’s done. A lighter tone is permissible, even appropriate here.
4) Know the proper formatting
It would take too long to go into all of the rules of how to properly format a news release here or discuss the finer points of Associated Press (AP) vs. The Chicago manual of style, since you can easily look these up for yourself. AP style is the most common, but if your business has its own house style this is fine too; the key is to be consistent.
5) Are you using attributions correctly?
Attributions (quotes) are useful in news releases for two reasons:
- First, there’s nothing better than a quote to put a human face onto your business and these quotes will often make it into the story. Quotes have a psychological effect on the audience which is stronger than you may think.
- Second, an attribution allows you to make points or arguments which would otherwise be out of place in a news release. Press releases shouldn’t convey opinions (though there is some wiggle room for this in a feature-style release if you’re skilled enough to pull it off subtly) or make claims about the business or its products (hype).
Media releases may be objective, but thankfully, people rarely are. If there’s anything in your release which expresses an opinion or directly promotes the business, it should only be in the form of an attribution.
6) Are you telling a story?
Your news release should have an simple to understand and easy to follow narrative. If you can’t explain briefly what your release is about, no one else will be able to either. Try rewriting it and take another look.
7) Is it to the point?
Editors are very busy people. With that in mind you need to know you have less than seven seconds to get them interested in your release. Keep it brief. One page or less this is a rule that shouldn’t be broken. Longer press releases will rarely be read, let alone used. A good rule of thumb is to keep it to around 500 words, maximum and preferably closer to 400. If it’s longer than this, start editing.
8) How useful is it to editors?
Journalists are very busy people, often doing more with less.. Give them enough information to build a story around without having to call you for more information but ensure that you include a way to contact you if they do have any questions.
9) Did you double or triple check it?
Although typos happen, they look unprofessional and could kill a good release. Proofread, then proofread again, and if possible have someone else look it over as well. Rewrite and edit as needed and look it over once more.
Did you pass the test? EXCELLENT. Then send your release out now.© Copyright 2013 TextOnly'Admin