How to Write a Killer Press Release

Every so often these days, our industry asks if the press release, a staple in the communications toolbox for businesses and communicators for 700 years, er, decades, is dead or alive.

I’d argue that aging might be a better descriptor, as in the press release as we know it is aging.

I’ll admit there are plenty of reasons not to announce your news or opinions in a press release (hey, maybe that would make for a good blog!), but to say that the press release as a communications tactic is dead is a lot like saying the newspaper industry is dead.

It’s up to us as communicators to decide whether our press releases age gracefully or wither away. It’s kind of like what Henry Ford once said: “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at 20 or 80. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.”

Here are a few tips on making the most of your press release (assuming you’re not a public company that has to announce just about everything).

What’s the Purpose?

Before you get started, take some time to determine why you feel you need a press release. What are the goals? Is it supposed to generate news? Is it supposed to chronicle an important moment? Is it supposed to be done because you always write press releases? Press releases don’t always have to be used to drive press: for instance, they can be used on your website to memorialize new hires or community involvement. Maybe it’s time we remove the word “press” and just call it a release…

Get to the Point

Assuming there’s a good reason for a release, get to the point quickly. Reporters and editors tell us they’re bombarded by emails from our wonderful profession. So, if they open your email, your release needs to grab their attention right away. That means avoiding industry jargon and long, nonsensical quotes that bury whatever news you’re trying to share. Keep it short. Keep it simple. When a reporter gets 300 emails a day from PR folks, the last thing they want to read is a release that looks like it’s going to take 20 minutes to get through.

A Picture is Worth…Um, Saves 1,000 Words

OK, maybe your release isn’t 1,000 words. But consider using pictures, stats, infographics as part of the release to break up copy. Consider that you’re the reporter: Would you find it easier to understand if it was an image or two more paragraphs? And don’t be afraid of using a few bullet points here and there – it’s a good way to make your release appear a little thinner.

Edit Your Work

We’ve all made mistakse with our work (see, I just did it write there… and did it again!). You may fashion yourself as a fantastic writer. Silly mistakes often blow that belief out of the water for many reporters. Those mistakes might ensure your release is DOA.

Happy writing!

Sean Ryan

A former print journalist, Sean joined The Hodges Partnership in 2003 and leads Hodges’ media relations team. He manages media relations strategy and helps place client subject matter experts on CNN, Fox News, MSNBC and more. Sean regularly helps place op-eds in top-tier papers like the New York Times, Washington Post and USA Today.

Read more by Sean

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