by Paul MacKenzie-Cummins, Editor and Managing Director of Clearly PR & Marketing Communications
It has been on the receiving end of some bad press in recent months (ironically), with many predicting its demise. But the humble press release remains a critical tool in the armoury of all companies who have a story to tell. The trouble is that not everyone ‘gets’ what makes a press release successful.
If you have a story that you think your audience will be interested in hearing about, you need to ensure that your press release is media-friendly – designed to make the lives of busy editorial departments that much easier.
Here are a few tips on how to produce a great press release that gets results.
- Make sure your story is newsworthy in the first place: Will people outside the confines of your four walls be interested? Does the addition of a new member of staff really constitute a press release, unless of course that new member is a well-known senior figure in your sector? Does it communicate new findings? Is it topical? In other words, you need to ensure your press release is relevant, timely, unique and useful – don’t treat it as an advertisement for your business.
- If you have a trumpet to blow, then blow it: Don’t be afraid to boast about your achievements. Much like having a CV, your press release is designed to communicate the things that make you stand apart from your competition, infer information or simply remind your audience of who you are and what you do – providing there is a newsworthy element attached to it, of course. For instance, have you secured a new contract, won an award, hired a new CEO, expanded into new markets or territories, released a new product or service, outgrown your existing premises and relocated, celebrated a milestone or anniversary, or perhaps you simply have some tips on how your audience can improve their experiences of a common problem…the list goes on.
- Have a bold headline: Again like a CV, you only have a few seconds to grab the attention of your reader – in this case a journalist or editor. Give your headline a hook to grab their attention and prompt them to want to read more.
- Start with a strong opening paragraph: The entire content of your press release needs to be summed up in your opening paragraph. The who, what, when, where and why should all be addressed and the tone of this paragraph will be ‘This is what I am going to tell you’; the body of the press release will contain the ‘padding’, or as my PR tutor once told me this is the ‘Now I’m telling you what I told you I was going to tell you in the opening paragraph’.
- Limit jargon: Always consider your audience – will the journalist reading your press release fully understand the lingo used in your industry? If not then err on the side of caution otherwise you may find your beautifully crafted jargon-laden press release will end up being sent to the trash bin rather than the printing press. Remember, your job is to make the journalist’s job easier – if they have to spend time deciphering jargon, this will reduce the chances of your press release getting the media coverage you want.
- Avoid clichés: One sure-fire way to alienate any journalist is the use of clichés in a press release. Avoid including nondescript, unoriginal self-agrandising statements such as ‘must have’, ‘revolutionary’, ‘market leader’, ‘essential’, ‘great service’, or ‘saves customers money’ – you want to be seen as different and unique to your competitors, so use language which makes you seem so.
- Include ‘anchors’: Most press releases will appear on the online versions of each media, which presents you with a great opportunity to embed keyword hyperlinks to areas of your website where you want people to go. For example, if you are writing that a ‘New survey finds that recruiters are the most underpaid of all professional services’ (unlikely that would be said, but hey let’s go with it as an example) you could hyperlink the words ‘recruiters’ and ‘professional services’ to relevant areas on your site.
- Add imagery: Include a high resolution JPEG or PNG of your logo at the top of your press release. Also include a good quality photograph too, especially if announcing a new hire or details of an event – this will help your release to stand out and gives more ‘character’ to your story, but more importantly it will stand out both on a website and within your target print publication.
- Get the right tone of voice: Press releases are designed to convey facts, so the use of decisive language will breathe life into your story. Instead of saying ‘NAME has entered into a partnership with’, go with ‘NAME has partnered with‘. Similarly, rather than say ‘The recruitment director delegation demonstrated hostility over the proposed T&S changes’, go with ‘The recruitment director delegation was enraged over plans to change the way in which contractors claim tax relief on expenses’.
- Finally, check, re-check and check again: Make sure you have all the facts correct and verified, that personal opinions are based on the facts not hearsay. Fundamentally, ensure that you have proofread your press release before distributing it – there is nothing more embarrassing than sending out a release which contains misspelled words.