Seven Ways to Pep up your Press Releases
November 2, 2012
As a press release writing professional, you will be commonly asked to come up with an array of content designed to serve different purposes. The most regular of course being the press release. The press release remains an essential tool for effectively sharing news with the broadest possible audience, and yet the opportunity to drive news with it is often squandered through poor writing and a lack of care. Crafting a top press release that raises interest and can turn heads is a combination of both an art and a science. Following our recommendations and ideas can transform your writing from newswire chaff to newsworthy wheat.
Know your strategy
PR pros often write several press releases per week without thinking about basic strategy. Who is the audience for each release? Why does this news matter? What is the best way to get a response? What’s your goal in announcing the news? The answers can differ from each announcement to the next. Try to anticipate the questions a reporter or blogger might ask. Answer these questions in your press release, and you’ll be off to a great start.
Reserve the headlines for news
Your press release headline may be the first and only thing a reader sees. It’s incumbent upon PR professionals to identify the most newsworthy angle that explains the news and resonates strongly with your audience. Make the headline compelling. It will draw your readers in. Make them want to read more. A pedestrian headline such as ‘Company X announces results of survey” can be supercharged by analyzing the results and identifying the parts that are newsworthy. “Company X Reveals Media More Trusted Than Politicians” tells a story that’s surprising, interesting, and worth reporting.
A poorly structured press release can easily be the kiss of death for your news – no matter how enthralling. Although some experienced writers may stray from structure, understanding the theory behind it is essential – you need to know the rules before you can break them. This seven-stage guide is a good place to start:
- Headline: the news.
- Subhead: elaboration around the headline.
- First paragraph: introduction, details about the headline.
- Second paragraph: explanation of the subhead.
- Third paragraph: executive quote, context.
- Fourth paragraph: specifics about the announcement.
- Fifth paragraph: summary, call to action.
Use your quote for commentary and context
A CEO quote that begins with how thrilled, elated, overjoyed, etc., he or she is about your announcement is a waste of valuable press release real estate. Every word the CEO or spokesperson says should provide context that explains the position on why the news is important. A good way to promote and access that context is to skip over the exclamatory part of the quote and start with the second sentence. If you must, write both sentences, then delete the first. For example: “We’re thrilled to be partnering with company Y to launch our product. This partnership gives us unprecedented access to new customers who will use the product in new and exciting ways,” said Jennifer Smith, CEO of Company Y.
Don’t let SEO overtake the news
SEO and marketing experts will tell you to plaster your press release with jargon and keywords that drive optimization and your search ranking, but PR is not designed to serve the SEO crowd. Write the news with interesting, newsworthy language, and blend it with terminology that will address SEO needs, not the other way round. Using the correct terms can definitely help SEO, but don’t overwhelm the message. For example, rather than “new software helps users scan their computers easier,” explain what the product does. Try, our software will enable customers to choose which areas of their computer they want to protect most and scan them in real time with the click of the mouse.”
Leave generalizations on the notepad
“This product will increase social engagement” is a terrific thing to say, but anyone who cares enough about your news will need to know how. Provide specifics and evidence. For example, “Facebook Page managers who use plugin X will see an average increase of 40 percent in incremental fan engagement.”
Write a sizzling email subject line
The email subject line is the most important element you will write. Your expertly crafted press release might unlock the secret to doubling sales in your industry, but a mind-numbing subject line will ensure that no reporter opens it. Some Reporters can often receive hundreds of pitch emails a week, and yours is just one of them. Think long and hard about the message that would make you drop everything and open that email.