Press Release 101: key ingredients

Many, especially those in media and PR, would have an idea of what a press release is, and what it’s meant to do.

But for the uninitiated, a press release can seem like something daunting: you kinda know what it is and does… but not really.

So let’s start at the beginning.

What is it?

A press release is an article sent to the media (usually journalists/editors of media outlets, such as a newspaper, magazine, journal etc) by businesses, organisations, brands.

The press release’s first and foremost objective is to inform the media (and its audience) of news, such as new products/services, changes to the business, or milestones and achievements.

Another objective of the press release is to add value to brand equity—whether by offering a feel-good story or other positive, significant news that demonstrates the brand’s strengths.

So what goes into it?

Quite a number of factors go into crafting an impactful, successful press release, but the most important thing to consider is this: what value will this piece of content offer to the journalist/editor/media outlet? How will this press release and its information/story be valuable to the media outlet’s audience?

So to make sure your press release gets covered by the media and reaches the audience, make sure the content is valuable, significant and engaging!

The other key ingredients are as follows:

  1. The right angle
    To position your story and your brand the way you want… Consider these questions when framing your angle: How is this different to other similar stories/brands out there? What stands out? What impact are you making? What’s your ethos?
  2. A strong headline
    The headline can often be the deciding factor on whether someone decides to read your story or not. Craft something concise, but also catchy! Recommend limiting to 10–12 words.
  3. An engaging lede
    Also known as the hook, your lede is the introductory paragraph in the press release, setting the scene, context and tone for the whole article. You want this hook to be the hook-iest hook, and get your reader to continue reading! One good way to craft a good opening is to show the reader the landscape you’re operating in.
    For example, if your press release aims to announce how your company is working towards reducing landfill waste from households, using innovative technology your company has developed, you could start by showing the state of the waste landscape here. How to show and not just tell? Check this article out.
  4. Succinct body with all the relevant bits
    A good opening is nothing without a meaty body. Make sure that your story has all the relevant information included. If there are gaping information gaps, or if statements contradict each other, the media isn’t going to want to expend extra effort to try and piece your story together for you!
    That said, however, make sure that you cut to the chase and don’t waffle on! Fluff is a guaranteed deal-breaker. So put your critical eye on when editing your press release, and cut out any fluff that doesn’t add to or support the story. This is a press release, it needs to be engaging, but it also needs to get the point across!
    Recommended length: 1–2 pages, double-spaced.
  5. Background information and references
    We all know the importance of being able to back up statements and claims made. One way to do this in a press release without turning it into a full-length research paper is to effectively utilise the magic of hyperlinks!
    Make sure to link statistics, figures, claims/statements etc to its source, such as government reports.
    And when you’ve alluded to other events/stories, also make sure to hyperlink to your past press releases or blog articles, if relevant. This helps provide a rich background and a well of information the journalist/media can easily tap into.
  6. Visuals
    There’s nothing more boring than an endless sea of text without any graphics to break it up, or highlight a certain point. Make sure to include relevant images, videos, infographics to bring attention to key information and help bring your story to life.
  7. Who said what?
    Quotes. Good quotes are definitely a must, as it brings credibility, authenticity and personality.
    And when you cite an expert or authority figure, it can also add integrity to your message, and gives a face to the press release.
  8. Contact information
    This one is a bit of a duh point—but there will be someone who will forget to attach contact information, so it’s best to say it rather than not!
    Include the spokesperson’s name, title/position, email and phone number at the end of the press release. When added information is needed, it becomes easy for the journalist to simply look at the end of the press release (without trawling through emails!) and have your contact information handy.
Keep going, you can do it, with lots of practice!

Onwards!

Drafting a press release may seem daunting, but the key is to just put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and start writing. You’ll get better with practice; but if you never start, then you’ll never succeed!

Another thing to note is to make sure you get another pair of eyes on your press release when you’re done drafting it. Get it reviewed. Get it edited. Get it proofread. And if possible, get a well-established editor to help you.

The last thing you want is to send out an incomplete press release riddled with errors and links that don’t work!

Are you wondering about what an editor is or does? This short video may help shed some light.

Till next time, xo

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