Writing press releases can be intimidating. However, even though it is a specialized type of writing, it need not be difficult. There is one key idea that will help you to succeed at producing press releases. This article will explain that idea and how it guides the content of your press releases.
The most effective press releases will result if you put yourself in the shoes of the business journalist or other reporter who will be writing about your organization. Imagine the story they will write and give them what they need to write the story. By following this approach, you will create the five essential elements of a press release, as described below:
First, they need a lead.
They need an answer to the question “What’s new?” So you will want to start right out in your press release with what is happening at your organization that is newsworthy. Have you just begun marketing a brand new product? Have you opened a new store? If you are a nonprofit, have you launched a new initiative or program? Have you received a grant for a special purpose? If there is nothing new, then you should not be writing a press release.
Second, they need facts and details about that newsworthy item.
What exactly is it? Why is it beneficial and for whom? When does it begin? Quantify, describe clearly, in plain English without technical jargon. If you are announcing the opening of a new store, tell where it is, how large it is, what product lines will be offered there, how many new jobs it brought to the community, and exactly when it will open. Does it have architectural significance? Is it a “green” building?
Third, they need to convey the significance of this news.
Why is it important? For whom is it important? They may need to compare this news item to other news items. For example, if you are Apple, you may want to say that the release of the I-Phone is the most significant new product release since the I-Pod or is on a par with the I-Pod. If you are a company opening a new office because your sales have skyrocketed in a particular region, you will want to say that the new office will allow you to serve an additional umpteen customers and facilitate the growth of your operations into 3 new states, etc.
Fourth, they need quotations from key officers or officials of your business or organization.
Journalists want to hear from “the horse’s mouth” why this is such an important development. A good quotation is pithy, direct, and compelling and conveys the key message of the organization. If possible, it should convey not just facts, but also context and vision from top leadership. Often these quotations are actually drafted by press officers or public relations staffs, but they should sound like the words of the CEO. An example might be: “We have decided to consolidate our operations in one location in order to provide a one-stop shopping experience for every customer”.
Fifth, they need basic, simple background information about your company or organization.
At the bottom of every press release is a paragraph of standardized information about the organization. When was it founded? How many employees does it have? What is its mission? Where is it located? What is its mailing address, website address? Who are its chief officials?
With those five elements, you will have provided the business journalist or other person writing about your company the ingredients they need to produce a compelling, accurate story. Stylistically, keep it professional but readable. Do not use long, ponderous sentences or weigh it down with fifty dollar words. In fact, do not use any words you do not need and avoid excessive detail. A press release should be upbeat, inviting, and easy to read. Avoid any hard sell or strident tone and remember that you are not writing ad copy.
By following these guidelines, you can produce a very effective press release for your business or organization even without years of training as a public relations specialist. And with practice, your skills will grow.