How to write a perfect press release
February 1, 2009
The aim is simple – to give you a winning formula to create attention-grabbing press releases. So you can create a new press release from a proven template, and gain publication – hopefully every time you submit the editorial to a Press contact.
According to many in PR, writing a press release for media consumption is filled with little-known nuances, subtle twists and turns, a special language understood by the press and PRs only, and a myriad of other ‘rules’ to gain entry into the privileged position of gaining publication.
This, basically, is not the case. Writing a winning press release is not a secret formula, part of a Dark Art, or rocket science. It is a straightforward process.
Obviously, a PR Consultant or Agency wants you to think this. They don’t want you to have the skills to write your own highly-effective, relevant, newsworthy editorial items, because then they wouldn’t be hired to do it for you. Simple.
But the truth is, a press release is only a news-conveyance tool. It informs and educates. It inspires debate, attention, confidence in a company or individual. It also, conveniently, raises profile and passes on key messages. And sales.
So, let’s get you on the road to creating a prefect press release. I usually take about 45 minutes to write one, but I’ve had a lot of practice! And with practice, you too can be in the same position. Remember, it is not rocket science – but there are a few basics you’ll need to implement for PR success.
First things first:
There are five basic ingredients which will make up your press release, namely
* Angle – what is the main thrust of the news in the editorial
* Unique – you will have something unique, different or interesting to say
* Relevance – you News will be highly relevant to the readership
* Value – your news will add value to the publication’s content
* Timeliness – the editorial will be timely, contemporary and factual
These five key ingredients are worth looking at in a bit more detail, to fully understand how crucial each one is in gaining publication time after time.
* Angle – the thrust, or storyline, of your press release is the driving force and main ‘hook & hold’ for the media. Your angle, therefore, needs to be focused, based on a News item in your business, and with no superfluous details.
* Unique – your press release must convey news that is different, unique and interesting. To put is plainly, it must tell the readership something useful which will enrich their lives. And this doesn’t just mean try to flog them something.
* Relevance – to be truly relevant to a publication, you need to be able to offer the readership a product, service, opinion or similar which is of benefit and use to them in their everyday business or personal lives.
* Value – to add value to a publication’s content is a potential minefield, as ‘value’ is determined by the editorial team, rather than what you think is of value to the readership. Extreme and common sense are needed here.
* Timeliness – to provide a timely press release essentially means that your news is contemporary, factual and ‘now’ rather than about an event or launch which happened three months ago. Be aware of current affairs and impacts.
Press release template:
Every press release is formed from a basic template design, which follows the same structure and layout: in essence it goes like this:
* Headline – one line in length, snappy, no clichés, hints at story and angle
* First paragraph – sums up the entire news item in one brief element
* Second to tenth paragraphs – bulk of news item, with relevant quotations
* Final paragraph – ends the news item, ideally with a confirming quotation
* Contact details – of the press release supplier. Email, phone and website
* Notes to Editors – additional information, case study hyperlinks, statistics
Press release PR photography:
This element is as important as the editorial you produce and issue to the media. A professionally-taken, appropriately-formatted image to accompany every press release you send is an absolute must. Never forget the image.
Most offline newspaper and magazines will require jpeg format images at a resolution of 300dpi: this standard will be of the right standard for pretty much any daily newspaper and glossy magazine in the UK.
Images for online reproduction require different formatting, of course, and the best option is to hire a professional photographer – preferably an experienced PR press photographer – who will be able to produce relevant online and offline-ready images for you to submit to the appropriate media.
You may argue that the additional cost involved with hiring a professional photographer is prohibitive, but in reality if you’re serious about gaining publication and delivering a polished press release, images must always be part of the package delivered to the media. Ignore this at your peril.
Timeframe: 0-3 hours
Here’s a rough guide on how to produce a winning press release in a three hour timeline. You should aim for the following:
* First 30 minutes: establish angle, write leading paragraph, form key quotes – press release template here with first paragraph completed only no headline
* 30 minutes-1 hour: Write paragraphs 2-6, including bulk of News details – press release temple here with first six paragraphs completed no headline
*1-2 hours: Write paragraphs 7-10, including concluding quotation – press release template here with 10 paragraphs completed no headline
* 2-2.5 hours: Formulate image caption and Notes to Editors sections – press release template here with paragraphs and Image Cap & Notes completed no headline
* Final 30 minutes: Proof-read the entire press release. Then do it again.
Ready to submit:
You’re nearly there. The final points are important to remember as you tidy up and finish up. Before you collate your media list and email the press release:
1. Make sure you have not repeated any information, quotations, statistics.
2. Check the press release by reading it out loud. This is vitally important.
3. Finally, write the one-line Headline. Always do this last of all. It flows easily.
Relax. Take notes about your business, products, service and people. Do not worry if the editorial doesn’t flow at first. Stay with it. Re-draft until you are happy with the tone, layout and newsworthiness of the press releases you produce.
And – of course – good luck! Remember you are conveying positive messages.