For those working in the PR profession, having the ability to write a good press release is vital. A press release isn’t just another piece of content; it’s a useful tool to sell your story and share details of who you are and what you do. A great press release should give a journalist a hook to want to learn more about you and encourage them to write about you.
Sounds simple doesn’t it?
Well not quite.
Unlike other forms of copy (such as leaflets, brochures, websites) a press release needs to really ‘pack a punch’ from the get-go. Journalists are busy people and will receive literally thousands of press releases a day, so how can you ensure that your release stands out and catches the eye of the journalist?
I recently spoke with Mary Whitehouse, a fellow wordsmith based in the Midlands. Mary wrote a great article which explored the do’s and don’ts of press releases and she has listed some incredibly practical tips on how to write, format and send out a press release.
With this in mind, here are just a few of my own observations from my experience in targeting different types of media on behalf of my clients.
Start with the basics
When writing a press release, the best advice I can ever share is that you need to include all the relevant information in the opening paragraph. At primary school, you may have been taught about the importance of “who”, “what”, “why” and “when”. This is an ideal thing to remember when it comes to press releases.
I always describe them as being like building blocks of information or an upside-down pyramid. The more important the information, the higher up it should be.
Whilst we’d all love to think that journalists will read the entirety of our lovingly crafted press release, it’s an undeniable fact that they may stop reading at any point. This means you need to be confident that the journalist has gleamed all the necessary information from the very start.
Research your media targets before sending it out
Once you’ve written your press release, you need to make sure that you’re sending it to the right people.
This is where desk research is vital. There are a variety of tools available to help you find the right journalistic contacts for your story. You can use google and social media to confirm the journalist names and possible contact details (or you may wish to invest in a subscription to a media database) but above all else, make sure you’ve read the publication before you send anything in.
One of my regular job roles is to write and edit a quarterly magazine. Over the years, I’ve built it up to become a high-read publication within its sector, and as such I’m often sent press releases for potential stories. It never fails to surprise me how many people send out badly written press releases which have zero relevance to my readers. Despite clearly being marketed as a social work magazine, I’ve had stories relating to Father’s Day gifts, carbon footprints and even climate change!
There’s nothing more likely to make me hit the ‘delete’ button than a press release which has clearly been sent to me by someone who hasn’t even bothered to look online and see that every back issue can be read in full, online for free.
Think about story placement
The best way to get a story placed in the media is to suggest to the journalist where you see it fitting in. If you can suggest a regular column or logical place it not only helps the journalist, but it will build stronger relationships and help them think favourably of you.
Simply demonstrating that you’ve looked at their publication and you’ve tailored your approach accordingly can make a big difference. Yes, it can be time consuming – we’d all love to simply type in all of our contacts in the ‘BCC field and hit send, but generally a carefully crafted approach can be much more effective.
A picture is worth a thousand words
Where possible, always try to include an image with your press release. News articles need visual aids so if you have a great product image, or a fantastic press shot then make sure you send it in!
The two local newspapers in Ipswich prefer to use landscape images which fit in well with their website formats. When selecting an image, make sure that it is high resolution and suitable for print. This generally means that it needs to be at least 300dpi – you can check this by simply clicking right click>properties>details
Use images which are clear and demonstrate your story favourably.
When you attach the image to a press release, we advocate for sending a low resolution image (with full caption and photo credit saved in the file name) along with a clear link where a journalist can download a high resolution version. Tools such as WeTransfer, Dropbox and Google Drive are easy ways to do this.