If you go online, you’ll likely find scores of articles on how to write the “perfect” press release. There are also classes conducted by a variety of PR organizations discussing the ways and methods of preparing the perfect press release.
However, truth be told, there is no one right way to write a press release. The perfect press release does not exist. However, there are ways to make your press release stand out amidst the hundreds of press releases distributed to editors every day. In so doing, you have a very good chance of having your press release get picked up by publications that will print it and/or post it online.
Following are the five ways to write the almost perfect press release:
1. Make sure it is news: An issue I often encounter is when a client wants to send out a press release (for instance, about a new product) that may be news to the client, and news it wants to share, but to a trade publication editor it may look more like an advertisement. A press release is supposed to be news. In the case of a new product announcement, try to find a news angle. Is it made in the USA? Is it made of a new material? Is it a green or sustainable product? Was it developed after extensive collaboration with end customers? Any of these might make the product newsworthy. If your press release contains a news angle, chances are it will see the light of day.
2. Focus on the title: Advertising executive David Ogilvy says that, on average, five times as many people read a story’s headline as they do the actual copy. Write a news-like title, using no more than eight words, and try to focus on the benefits for the target audience.
3. If it bleeds, it leads: Well, we are not going as far as leading with something gruesome, but the first couple of paragraphs—the leads to the news story—are very important. The goal is to capture the editor’s attention, and then, with that accomplished, the release may get picked up.
4. Short and sweet: The entire news story should be no more than 350 words, 400 max. Here’s why. While online publications have all the space they need, print publications are limited in the amount of space they can offer. The goal is to get the release picked up both online and in print, so keeping the total word count to about 350 words should work for most publications.
5. Stay focused: Related to word count is the need to stay focused. There may be several components to a news story, but with a 350-word max, there is no way to share them all. I suggest you write the release with as many components as you want to discuss and then edit. Typically, with the words on paper, it becomes much clearer which key points are worth keeping and which can be deleted.
Another suggestion, which is icing on the almost-perfect-press-release cake, is to try to avoid clichés. Words such as “announces,” “state-of-the-art,” “innovative,” “high-performance,” and scores of others bore editors and no longer have much meaning or impact. Check a thesaurus to find words that have similar meanings but are used less frequently.
More on writing an effective press release can be found here.