5 tips for writing a winning press release

By Renae Gregoire | Differentiation

Jan 15

EXTRA! EXTRA!

So you want free publicity? Thinking about writing a press release? 

Great idea! Even in the age of the Internet, many major news outlets and publications get a high percentage of news from press releases.​

Your goal is to get your release noticed rather than ignored or trashed. But keep in mind that a new website, new product, new service … those things just aren't news anymore.​

Thousands of new products and services are launched every day, and many of the launchers send press releases. Editors report that they're inundated with press releases, and that the quality of most is poor.​

Here are five tips that will give your release an edge over all the other releases in an editor's inbox.​

1. Find a newsworthy angle.​

First, if possible, tie your release to something else that editors and writers consider “news.” Are you launching a new site that sells services to moms-to-be? That alone isn't news to anyone else but you--and maybe your mom. But what about tying the news of your launch to the latest government report that says single moms are slowly becoming the largest percentage of households in the US? Write a release that taps such news, and shows how your site offers resources to those moms-to-be.

2. Can't find a current-events connection? Write an evergreen press release instead.

If you can't find a newsworthy angle right away, write an informational, or “evergreen,” press release. Evergreen simply means that the topic of your release will appeal to editors, writers, and their readers all year long.

Suppose, for example, you're opening a business that sells pools. In-ground pools. Why not write a press release headlined: "10 tips for getting the perfect pool in time for summer." Fill the release with information the editor's readers will want to know. Make the release more like a story. Quote yourself in the release to represent yourself as an expert on pools.​

Home, Garden, and Lifestyle editors are more likely to use a piece like that "as is," or to use your release as a springboard for a fuller, separate article because they know their readers will appreciate the information you share in your release. And they'll likely quote you or call you, establishing you as an expert. Would-be pool buyers read the article, see your name, and then, hopefully, give you a call. Easy, huh? You can write evergreen releases around almost any product or service.​

3. Follow press release conventions.​

To show editors that you've considered their requirements, and that you know what they want, follow standard press release conventions.

  • Place the text "FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE" at the top of the page.​
  • If your release coincides with a special occasion, change it to: FOR RELEASE ON _______, and enter the date.
  • Include your full contact information. Let editors and reporters know to reach you. Remember that many journalists work nights and weekends, so make sure that you're available to them during your off hours, too.
  • Start your headline about two-thirds down the page. Leaving a large blank space gives editors room to write instructions to journalists or typesetters.
  • Write your headline so that it reads like a news headline. Try to leave your business name out of it. I wouldn't want to write a release that said, "The Write Idea launches new marketing portal for small businesses"; readers–editors!–would be like, "What is The Write Idea — and who cares?" Instead, make the headline about the editors' readers. Say something like, "New marketing portal available to help small business owners increase profits."
  • Include Who, What, Where, Why, When, and How in the first paragraph. Write the release in the inverted pyramid style used in news writing. Include the least important information at the bottom of the release, and work upwards. If an editor needs to cut, they'll know they can cut from the bottom and not lose important details.

4. Keep in mind that you're writing a news release, not an ad.

Another important tip is to keep your use of adjectives to a bare minimum. A press release headlined like this sounds way too much like an ad:

Expert wordsmith dazzles business owners with exceptional copywriting prowess

“Expert? By whose standards?” an editor would ask.

“Exceptional prowess”? Okay, I overdid it a bit, but I think you get the idea.​

If you pepper your release with words like “wonderful, impactful, high caliber, high quality,” it’s going to sound just like an ad.​

And editors do not print ads.​

Scan your release for adjectives. And then cut those beasts without mercy.​

5. Use quotations when you want to talk up your product or service.​

Just because adjectives are all but verboten doesn't mean you can't play up how wonderful your product or service is. But do so only in quotations. For example:

“I've spoken with lots of local business owners who tell me that it's good to have a reliable writer on standby, someone who knows how to create professionally persuasive copy for their print and online marketing pieces," said Renae Gregoire, owner of The Write Idea. “In fact, business owners tell me that they really enjoy getting the same creative marketing and copywriting services that ad agencies and larger marketing and PR firms provide, but at a much lower cost and without all the other bells and whistles,” she said.

See how that works? Sprinkle pertinent quotations throughout your release to get in the “ad-type” copy you want.

Bottom line?​

Follow the tips provided, and you'll be well on your way to sparing your press release a quick trip to the trash can, and to garnering priceless, free media attention.

Images Courtesy of: Buy Stuff from Stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net, PR from Niuton May at Flickr.com, News from Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net​

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About the Author

Renae Gregoire is a marketing writer, editor, critical thinker, obsessive questioner, and excellent-results deliverer. Although writing is her talent, empathy is her Super Power; she combines both into a potent formula for creating content experiences that lead more people to YES!

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