Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Start the Presses! How to Write the Right Press Release

So you want to take the business world by storm by calling attention to your products, services or achievements? Your first thought, quite rightly, is that you need a press release. But every time you submit these little nuggets of self-promotion to your chosen media, they seem to disappear into the ether without a trace. How do you create a press release that does the job well enough to get published and make a meaningful  impact? Here are some things to keep in mind when crafting a press release for your company or organization.

Follow the Inverted Pyramid

A press release is a marketing document in news article's clothing. No self-respecting journalistic publication will host a press release that's obviously nothing but a gushy self-plug. (Those "sponsored content" pieces you see online are clearly marked as such, so they get a pass.) Your piece needs to read like news, and that means starting with the proper format. Structure your press release in the journalist's traditional "inverted pyramid," top-loading the article with the most critical facts before moving on to supporting details and additional data of interest. It's also critical that you answer the "5 Ws" of journalism -- What, Who, When, Where, and Why -- in your press release. Above all, the subject of your press release should seem newsworthy. Ask yourself, "Why do readers need to know about this?" Then make sure your readers can readily see that relevance.

Balance Objectivity and Subjectivity

With the exception of editorials, journalistic writing strives to maintain an objective point of view. Gushing, condemning, or endorsing the subject matter just isn't done by competent, responsible news writers. So how in the world are you supposed to generate the enthusiasm necessary to attract prospective customers or business partners in your press release? That's easy -- put the editorializing into the mouths of others.

Press releases, like other types of stories, typically feature multiple quotes from individuals who are either directly involved in the events or adding their two cents as an expert in the subject at hand. You, the writer, don't have to play your emotional hand as long as you have company representative and industry pundits ravings about how exciting this new development is or how brilliant a solution this new product provides. Your quotes are the beating heart of your press release; the surrounding narrative is the brains.

Become Your Own Newsroom

Don't rely 100 percent on your target news publication rushing your story to the presses, no matter how well-crafted it may be. Publishers juggle tons of submissions at any given time, forcing them to give preference to those lucky few with the perfect combination of relevance, writing skill, and word count for the current issue's particular needs. Instead of depending entirely on other publishers, be your own publisher as well. Post your press releases to the News section of your website, and use your social media channels to drum up interest and provide inbound links to those juicy stories. 

You might even profit from retroactive press release publication. I was once hired by a finance company to write 12 months' worth of "old" press releases covering the company's busy, exciting first year in the industry. The client posted each press release on the company website with an appropriate time stamp, making it look as if the pieces had been posted as the events occurred. This filled out the Company News section nicely and added welcome weight and authority to the business's online presence, while helping to set the tone for future postings.

Follow these basic tips, and you're more likely to get significant results from your press releases. You can make the process even easier and more effective by outsourcing the actual writing to a professional. See you in the headlines!