A press release should always answer these questions:Who, Why, What, When and How.
See your Press Release as your pitch to the journalist rather than the article you expect to see in print.
True, some online sites will just lift what you write and paste it straight onto their online news sites provided it reads well enough. Most of the time though, the journalist will do the writing themselves, and just lift the story line from the release.
The ‘who’ you are writing for is therefore the journalist or blogger, and you should give some thought as to which ones as this will have an impact on your headline, and what you include in the release.
You may be looking for local journalists to pick up on your story for instance, or alternatively a trade or sector journalist.
Once you are clear on who your target is, then you can focus on ‘why’ you want them to give you air time. Is your objective to promote an event, launch a product, respond to trending news or what. If you discipline yourself actually to write down a sentence before you start on ‘why’ you are posting a press release it will help you get the content relevant as you do write it.
With a clear view on ‘who’ you are writing for and ‘why’ you are doing it you can now get down to the actual job of ‘what’ the release has to look like. There are three main elements to this: your headline, the first paragraph, and the rest of the content.
Taking the headline first, this is your two second hook. It has to grab the attention of the journalists you are targeting, so make sure that it has the critical key words in it, and at the same time is captivating. A business looking for local coverage for instance should include a clear reference to that localness, such a region or town, whereas a trade journalist will want to see the trade or product referenced.
The first paragraph should be short and succinct, but must say exactly what it is that you are asking the journalist to take note of. The simple test is, once written, ask someone to sense check it. Does it explain clearly to them what you want to convey?
Then the main body of the release should go into the details, give the facts and provide a good relevant quote.
Overall, your release should be no less than 300 words and no more that 750 words. Journalists will not read pages and pages, but they will want enough to give them a good flavour of a piece of news.
Timing is just as important as the content though. Journalists look for relevant content ‘when’ they are writing about specific issues, or trending news. The perfect Christmas gift of the year needs to be talked about in Autumn, not on Christmas Eve. Journalists often work to forward features lists and it is important to be guided by PR calendars, (such as www.journolink.com), and to watch out for requests from journalists for contributions, known as editorial requests.
There are a three rules to follow too on ‘how’ to ensure your release is best positioned for pick up.
Firstly, attach a relevant picture or image. It has to be high resolution, and interesting as well as relevant. Imagine that it has to capture a stranger’s eye when flicking through a newspaper when you are choosing it.
Secondly add any additional information about the business, detailed data etc as a ‘Note to Editors’ additional piece after the actual press release. That gives journalists the details they may need without it actually getting in the way of the release itself.
Lastly, don’t forget to add contact details, including an email address and a phone number that will get answered if and when a journalist phones. They rarely call twice, so make sure that for at least 24 hours after a Press Release has been posted someone is ready to answer.
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Written by: Peter Ibbetson, Company Director
As one of the co-founders of JournoLink PR, Peter is passionate about giving small businesses a voice in the press by providing them with the support and advice to do just that.