PR 101: A refresher for every press release writer

Ten tips for creating a press release that will grab a reporter’s attention.

Editors and journalists are inundated with articles, press releases and story ideas. Your press release has a much better chance of making it into print and gaining favorable media attention if you follow these 10 simple guidelines.

Telling your story:

1. Write a catchy headline.

The headline is typically bold and a size larger, but you’ll need more than a font to grab attention. To be effective, headlines have to make sense and sum up your story with 10 important key words.

2. Be newsworthy.

Not everything is news. Tie your story to current, newsworthy issues or events if possible. The fact that your company upgraded the in-house telephone capabilities isn’t news. Becoming a drop-off point for Cellphones For Soldiers and collecting hundreds of cellphones is.

3. Tell a story.

Start with the basics: who, what, when, where, why and how. Your press release isn’t necessarily about making a sale. It’s about providing useful information about your company. Make it interesting and easy for journalists to write about you.

Improving your story:

4. Be brief.

If your press release is two pages, try to cut it down to just one. Get to the point with a strong, factual lead, explain your story clearly and wrap it up with a memorable close.

5. Don’t hype.

“Readers don’t just discount hype words when they read them, they assume the opposite of what you said,” says Matthew Stibbe, writer-in-chief at Articulate Marketing. “Hype words are road blocks on the journey to credibility.”

6. Cut the jargon.

Industry-specific jargon is meaningless to editors, journalists and readers. If your story carries the new Chief Galvanized CLD 940, explain exactly what that means. Plain, clear language is especially important if you want to optimize your press release for online search engines.

Checking your story:

7. Check your facts, names, dates, spelling and grammar.

Sounds simple enough, but you’d be surprised at how many press releases go out with misspelled names, transposed numbers and missing dates. Don’t rely on your spell checker to catch spelling and grammar mistakes.

8. Send it to the right people.

If you’re unsure who to send your press release to, look up the contact online or in a copy of the print publication. Note the tone and content of the journalists’ articles and be sure you’re targeting the right one. “If you are handling communications efforts for your company, familiarize yourself with the local media and what type of news they are likely to run,” says Inc. Magazine’s Kimberly McCall.

9. Contact details.

Including the company’s name is obvious, but you’ll also need the contact person’s name, title, phone and email address. If you’d prefer not to have your company contacted directly, then you’ll need to supply the name of your marketing/PR department or agency.

10. Wrap it up.

Close your press release by repeating some of your important points, adding a memorable quote and encouraging the media to contact you about the story.

“Simply put, a press release is a pseudo-news story that presents the most newsworthy aspect of your product, company or service in a format and language familiar to the journalist,” says Bill Stoller of PublicityInsider.com.

Mimi Hashemi is the director of marketing and communications for TART Marketing. She is a contributor for the blog Suite101 , where a version of this article originally ran.

Topics: PR

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