Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Writing a Press Release? Read This First

You've got something spectacular to share with the world, or at least with your organizations' target market. So, stop the presses! Alert the media! Issue a press release! Wait, you don't have a press release? You've never written a press release? You wouldn't know where to begin with a press release? Okay, never mind. Re-start the presses.

Actually, press releases aren't hard to create once you know how they work and what you need to include. Distributing is easier than ever, too, thanks to the online templates offered by so many of today's digital media publications. Just paste your content into the right fields, fill out the other information, make sure you've followed all the publication's rules regarding formatting and word count, and hit Submit. Of course, there's still the press release itself to be written -- but the following tips should make that go more smoothly for you as well.

Invert That Pyramid

First and foremost, a press release is a news story crafted for publication as such, even if it's actually submitted by a business for purely promotional reasons. News stories follow a traditional structure known as an inverted pyramid. The most newsworthy facts sit at the top (the wide end) of the pyramid; this is your "Who, What, Where, When, Why" section, a.k.a "the lead," and it should be the first information your reader sees. Once you've nailed these key facts, you then move to the middle section of the inverted triangle, or the "body." Here's where you fill out the key points you established in your opening with explanatory information, interview quotes, and detailed breakdowns of attractive features and benefits you want to impress your audience with. The upside-down point at the bottom of your inverted pyramid is known as the "tail." This is where you wrap everything up with final followup information. (See below.)

Just the Facts, Ma'am

When you're trying to talk up an exciting new development, product, or service, it's only natural to fall into hyperbole. If you think something is wonderful, why wouldn't you use the word "wonderful?" Well, it shoots down your objectivity, and journalism (in an ideal world, anyway) is supposed to read as an objective presentation of facts. If you remember "Dragnet," you probably recall the cops steering this or that eyewitness away from a rambling editorial diatribe with a gentle but insistent, "Just the facts, ma'am." If your story really does have items that your audience will respond to, let the facts speak for themselves. You can always add a bit of hype here and there by placing it in someone else's mouth via quotes: "We're excited about this wonderful new way to help our clients thrive," et cetera.

Tell Your "Tail"

Remember that "tail" I mentioned earlier? It might occupy the least distinguished level of the inverted pyramid, but that doesn't make it unimportant. On the contrary, this section provides crucial details such as whom readers should contact to get more details about the story. It also serves as a kind of passive call to action: "The company directs interested parties to contact so-and-so for additional details and a free initial consultation." 

Even if these pointers help to clear up any confusion you might have had about press release composition, you may still feel less than enthusiastic about actually sitting down to write the stupid thing. But you can remedy that hassle easily enough simply by contacting me and letting me put my years of experience as a freelance copywriter to work for you. So stop the presses (again), and let's get the word out!