August 4, 2009
Many SME’s simply cannot afford Public Relations as they are starting out, but still understand the benefits of a well distributed and well-written Press Release. In this article, we are going to be passing on some of our most top-secret tips for writing a press release.
It is best that we point out now that every public relations professional has his / her own way of structuring press releases and what we are going to write is from personal experience - so don’t be afraid of playing around with the structure to try and increase the response rate.
- Make sure your contact details are shown in a prominent style in the header.
- Put a date on, ideally the same date as they day on which you send it.
- There are two forms of press release, one which is “For Immediate Release” and “Embargoed Until X Date”. Embargoed releases are now very rare and I have only used them three times in my career and this was to do with financial results of listed companies. By embargoing the release you are allowing the journalist to prepare the story but not actually run it until the date stipulated. In all honesty, if your story is very good they will ignore the embargo and this has happened to me before as the journos want to run it before their rivals. If you are an SME you can more or less bet that a journo will ignore your embargo.
- Don’t worry about having the snappiest of snappy headlines. The newspapers and magazines have dedicated people whose job it is to summarize the story in a catchy title. You need to just make sure your title is vaguely interesting, makes sense and is noticeable. One tip is to use capitalization in part of the title.
- The first paragraph is a very quick overall summary of the release and usually this is the only section the journo reads to decide if they are going to read on or not. You have to make sure this bit is rock solid, short, to the point and interesting. Use italic font to show it as an overview.
- The second paragraph is your first official paragraph for the release and once again you need to basically do a quick overview of the main parts of the story you are trying to get across. Usually the company name is not mentioned at all in the first or second paragraph. You may think this is odd but many journos don’t like to see the company name until further down the release and will bin it if they think it is just a really obvious propaganda piece.
- In the next paragraph you can introduce the company name and if you are sending it electronically or putting it on a newswire then use a web link, especially if your brand is not a household name. The journo will often then click through to see what your site is like.
- If you have covered all the main points and are happy then you may not need an additional paragraph you can go straight into a quote. Never waffle on for the sake of it. Releases should be to the point and factual.
- When quoting an individual make sure you use their title and their full name. This is your chance to get over a decent sound bite that the media can focus on. The more interesting your quote the more chance it has of being used.
- If there is a commercial aspect to the story, i.e you are announcing a new product launch or alike, the next paragraph would include how much it costs and where it is available from, along with any launch offers etc.
- Pictures can decide if a story gets used or not, especially if you have a good visual angle.
- You can also state that spokespeople are available to comment. It’s always best to put your most senior person up for interview where possible.
- A section titled “Editors Notes” can be used for any additional comments or anything else you can think of, including contact details. I usually put in a company’s 5 USP’s (Unique Selling Points) – including factual information and awards won.
- Don’t forget to reinforce your contact information.
If you´d like a local marketing company with over 20 years´ international experience to help you with your public relations communications ZA Marketing — a division of ZA Group (Pty) Ltd — on 0860 92 0000. Alternately visit www.zamarketing.co.za to view our full range of offerings.
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