While not exactly the sexiest form of copywriting, press releases are still an important aspect of marketing for many companies. They are also, not surprisingly, a good source of ongoing business for copywriters. That being said, there are a couple of points to keep in mind if you want to write a successful (read: not too boring) press release. So hunker down, because this post is going to be about…PRESS RELEASES.
I’ve always enjoyed reading the paper. I can distinctly recall whilst I was in grad school getting up each morning (somehow I used to be a morning person) and reading the PRINTED newspaper over coffee (albeit drip coffee) and cereal. If this sounds like something a retired person would do, you’re correct. You know how they say roommates often pick up each other’s habits? Well I lived with my dad throughout grad school and he is definitely retired. Just from his day job, mind you. He’s still is busy with many other activities, and he honestly has a better social life than I do! Anyway, I recall on Thursdays the Post-Gazette had a business section, and here you would see a roundup of various financially themed news and reports. Nestled in amongst such trivialities (according to my highly academic, highly important grad school mind) were small blurbs dealing with mergers/acquisitions, who’s who, business charity events and new corporations or CEOs. At the time I just glanced and moved on to other reading, but now as I reflect back, I realize those were definitely press releases!
While I may not have read them, they were still important enough for someone to create them in the first place, let alone have a newspaper editor choose them to be printed. And that’s the point, when they are printed, they are a very effective form of publicity. But, only to the right people. I don’t think my 23 year old self was who Bayer Corp. had in mind when they released the numbers from a recent drug study I read about over breakfast all those years ago. But, to the right audience, that was very important and informational. What if the head of a rival drug company saw those results, and decided they needed to ramp up their own testing to compete with Bayer? Or if a potential investor saw those results and thought this could be a very powerful drug in the near future, and decided to get behind it. All from reading a snippet.
So rule number one with press releases, is, the news has to be newsworthy. The results of a drug trial is newsworthy. A charitable gala is newsworthy. Manufacturing a new product is newsworthy. You get the idea. Then create a headline that sums up the story in a couple of words. Doesn’t have to be flashy, just state why is so newsworthy and why should anyone care. (Perhaps with some keywords peppered in!)
Then your first sentence should relate the main points of your story (think of the 5W How questions – wow that takes me back to grade school) without rambling on for too long. Then you get to the other important bits, in you guessed it, order of most importance. It’s a good idea to begin by stating the benefits and all the relevant information. Quotes always catch the eye and look nice as well. Gives the press release more of a human angle. In addition always add a picture. If you’re an editor reading and deciding what releases to publish, I know I would always go with one that has a picture. Then finish it off with an END statement and your contact info at the bottom. There is one additional item you can add to your press release if you feel some background or additional information is required. Below your contact information, you can add a Notes to Editor section. Here include any relevant background information that is either too lengthy to put in the actual release, or a relevant website. The editor will see this and know exactly where to look should they need additional information regarding the company, person or product the press release is about.
Once that’s prepared, it’s off to the media sources.
TIP: It helps to make a list!
Make sure you send it to a lot, as most press releases end up on the cut floor of an editor’s office. That’s it! You’ve written a press release! Now everyone (assuming it survives the editor) will know about your client’s product/service/other newsworthy item!
And you didn’t even have to drink any drip coffee or read a print newspaper. That is, of course, unless you would really like to, then that’s ok.