When it comes to press release writing, the longer is not necessarily the better. Learn how to shorten your release to catch the attention of journalists.
How to shorten a long press release. I’m going to answer this question from the standpoint of a journalist. After all its me your writing the press release for so if you understand my needs you’ll get it right.
Let’s first slay a few dragons. No, I don’t expect you to write like Hemmingway, Hugo or Thomas Hobbes. The journalist is the wordsmith not you. You just need give them the facts and paint a picture. They will craft their story out of your press release. Make sure your spelling is accurate and your grammar good enough to read is all I ask. I will do the rest.
Next, I love to hear from the original person or business themselves not necessarily from their PRs. Why? Because there is always an authenticity about the business owner that trumps the professional slickness of many PRs. And anyway, even if the professional release writer gets my attention I’m as likely as not going to want to speak to the owner themselves, to get insights and quotes only they can provide. So, don’t be shy or reticent about doing your own press release. I love to receive them.
The next thing is I, like all journalists, love brevity. Remember I’m looking at tens of press releases every day and life is too short. Just do me a huge favour and keep yours short. It makes me feel all warm and fluffy towards you because you’re doing me a huge favour in just making my day more productive. So avoid writing War and Peace or a major literary tome. However well its written, I’ll likely not read it, and it will put my nose out of joint. Keep it short and to the point.
These tips will help you shorten your press release to meet my brevity needs.
The title or headline of your press release is key, and not just for me. It determines whether your release will attract interest, click throughs and shareability. Remember also that if you seed it with a keyword or words early, it makes it more visible on google. Also, be sure to remember that Google cuts headline displays at between 65-80 characters (including spaces) and that newswires will accept no more than 100-125 characters. Once again that word brevity comes to the front. Keep the headlines short and punchy.
But my main need is that it grabs my attention by means of humour alliteration or just saying what the release is about on a topical or interesting subject. If it’s about solving a problem, meeting a need, teasing my curiosity, announcing a jaw dropping fact or development, launching a new product, taking your business in a new direction that is exciting, all these subjects will grab my attention and make me read on. That’s what the Headline is meant to do.
Introduction, teaser or opening paragraph.
Give me in a fluent sentence or two the answers to the key questions about any story: The answers to the questions, Who, What, Where When, Why. Don’t bother to say too much about the other key question “How” because if you’ve got the attention of the journalist he will want to read on and find out about how everything will be done.
That is done mostly in the body copy, the paragraphs that follow and flesh out the story. Remember you’ve got my attention with the Headline. You’re confirming my ineterst and maintaining it with the introduction. If you pass these two hurdles you’re virtually home free, I will continue the rest of the release and read on. You don’t need more than two sentences , and rarely three to confirm my interest in the introduction. The shorter the better.
In the body copy of the press release you’ll be giving more details about how the event your sending the release about will be realised. There are elements which are crucial. Don’t forget quotes. Quotes explain and provide insight to whatever the release is about and because they are essentially an opinion, can say virtually anything so long as they can be backed up by facts and are sensible.
Quotes add colour and sometimes can be the reason I take a sorry forward because they provide insights I want to share as a journalist in the interest of my readers. Never fail to have at least a couple of quotes from a relevant party on the story.
Storytelling, pictures and contacts.
Apart from quotes don’t forget to add an element of your personal story. Remember there are likely a hundred businesses like yours but only one YOU. Your connection, motivation, challenges, ambition, solutions to problems, persona all add inspiration, human interest that lights up a mundane product, business service or new development.
Think of your story as adding the drama , the sizzle to the steak that grabs my attention and makes me remember your company. If it works for me, it will work for readers. And you don’t need to write reams. All you need is to connect your experience, motivation, even the challenges you’ve faced with the business to bring the story alive. Two or three sentences telling your story, if relevant, is always a great investment in getting my attention.
Notes to the Editor.
In notes to the editor at the bottom of your release add the details the Journalist needs to take the story further, now that you’ve got his attention. He’ll need a contact person that’s available, telephone numbers, email addresses, social media feeds, website addresses and anything that helps the journalist expand on your short release.
High resolution pictures, in high resolution illustrating what the story is about are worth literally a thousand words and help you keep your release short and to the point. Add these and your press release is complete.
So, brevity is the key word in Press releases. A good headline, followed by an introduction and a three paragraph body copy are all you need to grab and hold my attention.