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by Lilach Bullock
February 14, 2020
by Lilach Bullock
February 14, 2020
The press release has long been an invaluable resource for businesses of all sizes: a simple yet effective way of getting the word out about a major acquisition, change in staffing, new product, forthcoming event or indeed any other piece of news the company deems to be worthy of promotion. As with other communiqués, however, there is both a good and bad way to write a press release; some will have the desired effect of stimulating interest or motivating action, others will be read and forgotten or ignored entirely. Come to think of it, some are remembered for all the wrong reasons – the result of unfortunate typos or a hectoring tone of voice that does nothing to endear you to the target audience.
In this blog post, I’ll show you how to put together a professional, impactful press release for your small business: a snappy pitch that, far from triggering instant deletion, compels journalists to sit up and take notice. But let me start by answering a simple question:
Press releases are statements shared with the media to generate positive news coverage. After all, who doesn’t want to generate laudatory media coverage of their product or service? Which business worth its salt doesn’t see the value in increasing brand awareness?
Nonetheless, some businesses fail to recognize the value of press releases, choosing to focus more on launching endless email campaigns, posting on social media and plowing funds into direct marketing.
However, this omission could be a lost opportunity. After all, press releases – which typically carry a word count of 400-600 – don’t take long to put together and yet, if done well, they can generate leads, create buzz and help you forge connections with influential media figures.
In short, press releases provide free publicity. With a panoply of online portals, news sites, blogs and other mediums seeking to publish valuable, well-written content on a regular basis, there’s no excuse to sit on your news story. Get the word out and you’ll quickly increase visibility for your business.
Naturally, no business should churn out press releases like they’re going out of fashion. Even if what you’ve got to say is earth-shattering, you’ll quickly find yourself consigned to the Junk folder. The key is to write when you’ve got something of genuine value to express or reveal. Have you recently recruited a charismatic new employee? Sure, that’s worth a press release – particularly if said staffer has some pedigree. A business journal or similar publication will be glad to publicize such an appointment. Ditto if you are announcing an exciting new product or service, an upcoming corporate event, a prize giveaway or the fact that you were recently the recipient of a prestigious industry award.
Ask yourself: is it newsworthy? Does an audience exist for this nugget of information? Or do I simply wish to keep my fingers busy on the keyboard? Be honest and you’ll save yourself from writing a press release nobody cares about.
A well-crafted press release adheres to a certain style and formatting guidelines because journalists have expectations and time constraints just like anyone else. Depending on whom you listen to, they are also famously impatient.
When you’re writing a press release, you of course want to ensure that said journalists can scan the information easily, processing the pertinent facts therein. However, it’s vital to snare their attention, to keep them reading till the end and provoke a reaction. Follow these tips and you’ll do just that.
Journalists are looking for an excuse to hit the trash icon. Don’t give them one. Format your press release in the industry-accepted fashion using one of the many templates available online. Fit your press release on a single sheet of paper. Then focus on writing killer copy.
The title of your press release should be a mini press release in its own right. In other words, when it lands in an inbox, the subject line should communicate its essence without having to be opened.
In the document itself, position your headline in the center, beneath your contact information, and avoid unnecessary verbal clutter.
Take inspiration from this sleek headline from a recent Apple release: “Apple unveils Apple TV+, the new home for the world’s most creative storytellers.”
Oh, and you might consider writing a descriptive subheading, positioned beneath the main headline. Keep it within 20 words and expand upon the key message of your subject line. If it’s sufficiently engaging, your reader will decide then and there to read to the end.
Press releases are supposed to be succinct. Yet you’d be surprised by the number of companies who naively assume that their mini-masterpiece will be read to the end, and as such postpone their big reveal like a Game of Thrones cliff hanger. Make sure your news angle is contained in the first few lines, otherwise your meticulously-crafted release is destined for the bin.
Bearing in mind that many recipients won’t really, truly care about what you are saying, it’s worthwhile trying to find an interesting angle.
Does your news tie into something currently trending? Can you solve a problem that has recently been in the headlines? Perhaps you’re launching a new carbon fiber road bike on Cycle to Work Day.
Convey what your product or service has to offer the reader and you’ll maximize your chances of engagement.
Are you blasting inboxes with the intention of maximizing coverage? Then you’re probably sending out a generic covering email and alienating journalists who might otherwise shine a spotlight on your content. Take some time to personalize correspondence, indicating that you selected that person because you thought they might harbor an interest in what you have to say. It might not always be the case but it will enhance your chances of success.
Even if you’re well-known to the journalist in question – and let’s face it, as a small business you probably aren’t – it’s smart to deploy a quote in your press release, to mark yourself as distinct from the spammy press releases that so often hit journalists’ mailboxes. These clunky releases read as though they’ve been written by bots, so incorporating a quote in your release will show a ‘human face’. Quote a salesperson, quote a customer who left a glowing review, quote the CEO: just quote someone, and make sure the words are nice.
Press releases don’t require major investment. What they require is a bit of effort and consistency. If you’ve got news to share, start sharing it. Just make sure you heed the aforementioned tips before pressing send!