Kick-ass Content: Simple Tips for Writing a Press Release
This is the fourth post in my series on creating kick-ass content.
Did you know that every month more than a million people turn to Google to find out what a press release is? I’m guessing if you’re reading my content marketing blog, you’re not among them. Still, knowing what they are and knowing how to write them are two different things. That’s why this week, I’m continuing my kick-ass content series (see my past posts on case studies, reports, and business blogs), by sharing my tips for writing a press release.
A press release (a.k.a. a news or media release) is an important promotional tool and a fundamental component of any content marketing strategy. Although relatively easy to put together, many startup and expansion-stage companies struggle to write press releases that articulate their news in a compelling fashion and grab the media’s attention. Want to know why?
It’s because those companies fail to:
1) Report actual news
“Let’s issue a press release!” Anyone who works in PR hears these words all too often. The problem is, putting out press releases willy-nilly can do more harm than good. Press releases need to be newsworthy. If they aren’t, not only will they not get picked up, over time you also lose credibility making it harder to get media coverage when you do have something newsworthy to report.
2) Think like a journalist
Remember, your press release is competing with countless others for journalists’ attention. You’ve got very little time to make an impact, so get to the point right away and give journalists a unique angle or hook they can sink their teeth into. If your so-called news is something that’s already been covered time and again, you’re not giving journalists much reason to cover you.
3) Write their press releases in house
As tempting as it may be to turn to a PR agency for help with press releases, doing so doesn’t always yield better results. The fact is, few people outside of your company will understand it well enough to be able to write a strong release for you. Take the first crack at the press release yourself. You can always share it with an agency after to get their thoughts on how to fine tune it.
With those tips in mind, let’s deconstruct a typical press release and look its parts. The sample below is an abbreviated version of a recent OpenView press release:
Contact info — If you’ve written a good press release about something newsworthy, chances are that the media will want to write a story. Make it easier for them by providing a media contact (name and phone number) who they can call with any questions.
Headline — No more than a line or two, the headline is your first, and probably most important, chance to make an impression. A good headline needs to get to the heart of the news you’re communicating in a concise and compelling fashion.
Subhead — Use this space (again, it should be no more than a line or two) to provide some additional detail to hook your reader. You’ve already communicated your main point in the headline, now tell people why they should care. For example, if you’ve announced that your company has won a new client in the headline, here’s where you might provide some detail about the size and scope of the engagement (potentially compelling factors that will get people to read).
Lead — The lead is typically the first sentence of the press release and is where you identify what your company is and what it has done that is newsworthy. You’re basically providng the who, what, where, when, and why in a single sentence.
Body — The meat of the press release, the body is where you provide supporting details about your news. This should include quotes from a spokesperson (both from your company and any other company that may be of significance to the release), as well as background and related information.
Boilerplate — Directly following the body of the press release comes the boilerplate, a single paragraph that describes what your company does. This is essentially a written form of your company’s 30-second elevator pitch.
There’s no secret sauce when it comes to writing a press release. It’s simply a matter of following a few basic rules and making sure that it contains all the right elements. At the end of the day, the quality of the news you are relaying is just as, if not more, important than the release itself.