Why a press release is like a 60-second commercial

An attention-grabbing headline and tight script are key. Does your press release fall flat?

Let’s put aside the obvious reason—that it is selling something, and needs to do it effectively.

The reasons go deeper.

1. It has to start with a tight script. Most corporate press releases are a snore. It’s not just because of the story line: Company A acquires Company B, Company C launches new product. It’s because the writing is typically formulaic and dull, often flabby.

2. It has to grab people’s attention. It starts with the headline. In real estate terms, you have to have curb appeal, and the headline’s what’s going to do it for you. It’s similar to an effective tweet.

3. It has to establish a core theme (think of this as the plot line) and use that theme to drive the verbiage forward. Writing a press release is like writing a short story. What is the inherent conflict the release addresses? New technology overcomes age-old industry problems? New product entry threatens entrenched market competitors?

4. It has to fit into a larger context. Why does your widget address common business user problems? How exactly does your gizmo advance consumer satisfaction? Why is your new CMO representative of larger marketing and technology trends? And please, no jargon.

5. It has to be memorable. I know this one is tough. But it’s important. Try grounding the nuts and bolts of the headline with an industry back story revealed in the subhead. Introduce a chart or graph that nails the rhetorical argument. Find third parties that support your case. Or have your executives say something that’s worth tweeting.

You get the idea. The traditional press release is a lot trickier to write than your clients or senior managers may think. But that’s not a good enough reason not to try.

Greg Miller is founder and president of Marketcom PR. A version of this post ran on its Let’s Talk Blog.

Topics: PR

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