Friday, May 7, 2010
Ten Steps to Writing an Effective Press Release
by Janae Cummings, PR Associate
There’s a common misconception that press releases are a foolproof method for increasing client exposure at minimal expense. Technically, I suppose that is true, but what most people forget, or, perhaps, never realize is that the likelihood of a press release not only being read but also published really depends on how well it’s written. By following these simple steps, you should be well on your way toward developing press releases that will be hard for the media to refuse.
1. Is the topic newsworthy?
Just because your client is excited about something doesn’t mean it counts as news, so consider your audience and their interest. Next, a press release should answer the 5 Ws – who, what, where, when and why. If it can’t, it likely reads like an advertisement and either needs to be re-written or not written at all.
2. Write strong headlines and first paragraphs
This isn’t a five-paragraph essay. State the good stuff first to capture the attention of the journalists who will publish your press release and the audience who will read it.
3. Just the facts
Avoid the fluff and exaggerations. Journalists will see right through it and either edit your release or not run it at all.
4. Concise language
Make every word count. Don’t distract the reader with flowery language or unnecessary adjectives and phrases.
5. Beware the exclamation point
Using exclamation points to generate hype is a fantastic way to destroy your credibility. It really ought to be a cardinal sin!!!!! (See what I did there?)
6. Strong, active voice
These verbs add clarity and strength to your message. Avoid passive voice whenever possible.
7. Less is more
If your press release is reaching two pages in length, revisit steps 3 and 4 and then check your document for extraneous news. Something has to go.
Have an event? Sign a new client? If it’s newsworthy, the time to write about it is when it happens and not weeks or months later.
9. Contact information
Journalists and readers need to know who to contact if they have questions or need more information. Always include an e-mail address and/or phone number.
10. Mind the media
Make it easy on them by distributing well-written releases that follow these steps and don’t require (or compel) them to do any heavy editing.