How to Write a Press Release

A press release is a presentation of facts designed to convince the media to cover your story. A traditional public relations method, it’s still very effective in building your profile and establishing you as a trusted authority in your field. If people have been reading about you in their local newspaper or your trade publication or website they will be more impressed by you and familiar with you than if they’ve only seen your advert.

But how do you go about it? In last month’s blog I explain what you should think about before you start to write. If you’ve done that and now know who you are writing for and what your angle is, then let’s get cracking.

Headline and intro

Pinpoint what the story you want to get across is and think about how you would explain it to a friend. You need to answer the what, who, when, how and why of your story. You need to put the crux of the whole story into one punchy, brief nutshell of a first sentence.

If you are struggling with the punchy bit, or encapsulating the gist of the story, I recommend writing the whole release then going back to craft your introduction and headline.

Expansion

The next few paragraphs develop the story by expanding the information, adding more details until the what, who, when, how and why is answered. Get all the crucial facts as high up the release as you can. This means that if your story needs to be cut down it can be done easily without losing any integral parts.

Quotes

Use lively and positive quotes from yourself or someone else relevant to the story to add colour. This is a golden opportunity for you to get extra information into the story as the journalist cannot change the quotes. So don’t waste them retelling something you have already mentioned.

Details

Journalists like details so include information such as where the people featured in the release live, their ages, and anything else of interest. When talking about your company don’t forget to briefly say where it is based and explain what it does.

Rules

Write ‘press release’ and the date at the top with an eye-catching, engaging title just beneath. You should write about 400 words and put ENDS at the end of the release. If your release is longer than a page put M/F (for more follows) at the bottom of the first page. Any photo captions, photo call invitations, and, above all, contact details go below ‘ends’ in a ‘notes to editors’ section.

Photography

If your story is publicising an event, include a photo call to photographers in the notes to editors with the time, date and location. Include a mobile contact in case the photographer can’t attend at that time and might want to set something up. For the same reason have your own photographer on stand-by in case the photographer doesn’t make it.

If you have a photograph that you own the copyright for that would accompany the release well, do send it. A good photograph will increase the chance of the story securing a prominent position in a publication or website.

Before you send

It is important when writing a press release not to assume any prior or specialist knowledge in the reader. If you’re commenting on a news story or local or industry development you must recap what this is in case the reader hasn’t heard of it. You must also avoid technical terms in favour of layman’s language. As a final check read the release through and pretend you know nothing about your subject or get someone else to read it for you. When reading you shouldn’t find any questions that aren’t explained, any incomplete facts, or any spelling or grammar errors.

If you’re happy you’ve done all this, you’re ready to send! My blog Dos and Don’ts When Sending a Press Release might help with the next step.

Datgan’s press releases are mostly published verbatim, so it might be quicker and easier for you to outsource.

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

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Things to Think About Before Writing a Press Release

I’ve already shared my Dos and Don’ts When Sending a Press Release, now I’m going to let you in on even more insider knowledge in the first of a series of blogs on this rather hefty topic. This blog covers things to think about before writing a press release, a companion guide to June’s blog: How to Write a Press Release.

What and who?

Before you start writing, think about what the story you want to get across is, and who your target readers are.

While all positive publicity is good, seeing a press release through its writing, placement and monitoring takes time – so think about who your target market is and prioritise. Write for your target market first and if you have more time you can always target other markets later.

For some publications, for example Saga, the magazine for the over 50s, the demographic of its readership is obvious. For others this information may be available on its website or by asking for a media pack.

Read the publications you’ve identified

Read the titles you want to be featured in to learn their house styles and individual reporters’ interests and contact details. Research national and trade titles online. Take note of deadlines.

What’s your story?

Don’t just write a press release because business is slow and you want some general coverage. Decide in advance on your story.

How strong the story needs to be depends on the publication. For a local newspaper if you live or work in their catchment area and you are doing something interesting, that is usually enough. A business opening, tick. A successful apprenticeship scheme, tick. Staff doing a parachute jump, tick.

For a regional or national business section or trade publication it needs to be bigger – taking on a significant number of new staff, reaching an important milestone, doing something innovative, offering useful advice to other businesses, commenting as an expert on a topical and relevant issue.

What’s your angle?

Find your angle. In a simple story, there will be one obvious angle. If you have a lot of information to get across or there are a few things happening, think about what is most newsworthy and start with that.

A picture tells a thousand words

It’s always good to supply a high-quality photo to accompany your press release, as it increases the chances of your piece securing a prominent place in your target publication.

If your story is about something that has already happened, send a good photo of the event with your release. If the release is not time sensitive, pay a photographer or get a creative on your staff to take an interesting, good quality photo to accompany it.

If you do all this groundwork you’ll be ready to get stuck in to writing, so please come back in June for How to Write a Press Release.

Top Six Tips for Talking to Journalists

As a business owner you may have a piece of news you want to share with the media – from an event to winning an award, to sponsoring a school trip. If you’re nervous about approaching the press, here are my top five tips to help you:

  1. Journalists are just real people

Never feel intimidated by talking to journalists. Despite what you may have heard, they’re just real people! Their job is to write stories, so they will be happy enough to talk to you. However, bear in mind:

  1. Journalists are busy, overworked people

So be respectful of their deadlines and pick a good time to call – unless you have a real scoop for them. If their newspaper comes out daily in the morning, then first thing in the morning is furthest away from their deadline. If their newspaper is published every Thursday, then steer clear of Tuesdays and Wednesday mornings.

Also have a clear idea of what you want to say before you call and make sure you have all the information you need to hand.

  1. Take their advice and guidance

Essentially if you’re trying to get coverage for your business through the editorial pages rather than paying for the advertising pages, you need to have a news angle. If the journalist is telling you that what you’re trying to push is an advert and not a story, but they’re kind enough to say that something else you mentioned would make a story – then go with it. They are the professionals, if they say there really is no story then it’s time to call in Datgan, not to get shirty. Which brings me to…

  1. Be polite

Newspapers are private businesses not public services and journalists are professionals, not public servants. Obvious, right? You’d think so, but you’d be surprised how many business owners phoned me up during my career as a reporter making rude demands for coverage. Treat the journalist like you’d treat any other business contact. Maybe even read a few of their pieces first and tell them which one you particularly enjoyed. A good relationship with a reporter can be invaluable to your business.

  1. Don’t be too relaxed

It’s fantastic if you develop a good relationship with the reporter, but remember some key principles. Use positive language, don’t be drawn into commenting on anything controversial, and if you don’t want something attributed to you, then you must state that it is off the record before you say it.

  1. Follow up

If you’ve had a successful interview with a journalist, or sent them a press release they expressed an interest in, keep an eye out for its publication. If it’s not in after a week, ring to politely ask why. It may be there has been a busy news period, staff illness, any number of reasons. Keep in touch politely until the piece is featured, and it doesn’t hurt to phone or email the reporter afterwards to say thanks for the piece.

There we have it, six top tips for talking to journalists. If you still don’t think pitching to the media is for you, Datgan can do it for you. Clients always say I am approachable and easy to talk to, so what are you waiting for?

Sieges, Tsunamis and Boiler Suits

A hundred and twenty five years ago a fine publication called the North Wales Weekly News was established. Eleven years ago a green trainee reporter called Laura Hughes was lucky enough to start work on it.

Here is my contribution piece to the anniversary celebrations, looking back at my time on the paper and the wonderful people who made my first job as a journalist such a pleasure.

image

Dos and Don’ts When Sending a Press Release

DO spend time before starting to decide what your angle is and which readers you want to target.

DON’T waste your time sending to titles whose readership does not fit with your target customers.

DO research titles’ readership demographics, style, reporter contact details and deadlines.

DON’T send a press release that isn’t relevant to a title.
A local newspaper in Bournemouth will not be interested in a fantastic new product by a designer from Blackpool. A design magazine will be interested in a fantastic new product by a designer from Blackpool if it is innovative enough. A local newspaper in Blackpool will also be interested.

DON’T send out a blanket press release to everyone.

DO write different versions for different titles.

DON’T just send your release out and hope for the best.
The contact you have picked could be on holiday or sick leave or your email could get stuck in the spam filter.

DO call to let the journalist know it’s on its way and phone again to check they’ve received it. However…

DON’T bother a journalist when he or she is near their deadline, unless you have a genuine scoop for them.

DO pick a good time and be polite.

DON’T think the job is done yet…

DO keep an eye out for your piece – if you’re happy with it a quick email to say thanks will never hurt. If it doesn’t go in, ring to politely ask why. It may be there has been a busy news period and it will soon be featured. If it doesn’t make the grade, ask why, listen to feedback, improve and learn for next time.

DO remember – these are the bare bones of placing and monitoring a press release. There are other factors such as timing and exclusivity. How to write a press release and thinking about accompanying images will be the subjects of future blogs, so please check back. If this all sounds too difficult or you need further advice:

DO please get in touch with me at laura@datgan.co.uk – I’m here to help.