Readers of this blog are often small business owners. I found this article, 5 steps to writing a press release by Teddington-based copywriters The Word Sanctum, very interesting and I think you will too.
If you’ve got an amazing new product or service that you want to shout about, then a press release is a great way of spreading the word. But before you start putting pen to paper, bear in mind that editors and journalists are regularly flooded with releases, many of which don’t even get read. As former journalists and editors, we’ve been on the receiving end of many excellent press releases that hit the spot and many more that only hit the rubbish bin. So how do you ensure that yours is a must-read that stands a chance of gaining you that all-important media coverage?
You talking to me?
Before you even start writing, ask yourself whose attention are you trying to get? Decide who your audience is and then spend time researching your target media. Start to build a relationship with relevant journalists and editors – don’t just follow them on social media, engage with them. Journalists like to get to know the people who are sending them stories. Check out their publishing schedules and timelines (every journalist works to a deadline) and investigate regular features and what sort of things regularly make the cut.
What journalists hate
When it comes to press releases, there’s nothing journalists dislike more than a sales pitch so don’t try and sell them your service or product. What journalists love is a good story. Make sure your press release paints a picture through storytelling and portray your story as a benefit to someone else. Less sell, more tell! They are much more likely to take a story and use it as content for an article or feature.
The 5 ‘W’s
Journalists love information. It’s free content! Whatever story you’re telling, it has to provide relevant answers to the 5 ‘W’s – who, what, when, where and why. These are the backbone of your release.
A punchy headline that generates interest, good grammar and correct spelling will do you a lot of favours too. And remember to keep it real when you’re writing…journalists aren’t looking for a literary masterpiece.
Next time you’re tackling a press release try the Grab – Hook – Inform – Reassure approach, it works!
5 steps to writing a press release – Step 1: Grab
An informative headline that packs a punch is key to grabbing the reader’s attention. Choose your words carefully and keep them succinct, informative and eye-catching. Humour works well but only where appropriate!
Here are examples of two headlines, the first lacks impact while the second is engaging:
New florist opens in high street
From bust to bloom: how new florist is rejuvenating the high street
Step 2: Hook
So you’ve grabbed the reader’s attention with a snappy headline; now you have to hook their interest with your opening sentence. This is basically a concise summary of the press release so the reader knows what to expect.
Step 3: Inform
A good press release will get to the heart of the story straightaway. You’ve grabbed their attention and hooked their interest and now you need to provide the answers to the 5 ‘W’s in the main body of the release.
Keep it as short as possible (journalists and editors are always time-poor) whilst still providing all the relevant information. One A4 page is ideal, anything longer than two pages and you’re wasting your time. Say why the story is currently relevant; your aim is to convince the editor to cover it now. Include a little background information on the subject/company in the main body.
Quotes are a must! They add flavour and authenticity so include a couple of punchy quotes from someone involved in the story.
Step 4: Reassure
Finally, how should you end a press release? The last paragraph of your release, or the boilerplate as it’s often referred to, needs to expand on the ‘who’ in your story. It’s your chance to tell the reader more about your business. Think of it a bit like the ‘About Us’ page on your website – it helps to give a fuller picture of who you are and shows your credibility and authority. Keep it engaging, informative and let your brand’s personality shine through. A concise line about your company’s goals and achievements will round your press release off nicely.
Step 5: Contact
Don’t forget to include contact information at the end of your release so that the journalist or editor can get in touch with any questions…let’s face it, they’re so hooked by your story, they’re sure to want to know more!
About the authors
Christina Haindl and Mary Bennett are co-founders of The Word Sanctum. They write, edit and craft clever copy for small businesses, and are expert proofreaders too. Tell them what you want to say and who you want to say it to and leave the rest to them. Whether it’s content for your website, newsletter or an advertorial, they’ll find the perfect words for you.
You can read more posts like this in the Business category of this blog.