Making a Statement Loud and Clear
Basic Steps and Expert Tips Unite to help you Write that Killer Press Release!
What is a press release? A press release is a written statement distributed to media outlets (magazines and newspapers, book publishers, television and movie studios, and professionals in your respective industry) via e-mail or snail mail.
Why send a press release? The purpose of a press release is simple: to announce the latest news in your company. This can encompass award wins, upcoming events, staff promotions, new products and services… the list is nearly endless. Your goal is to create company awareness. (A feature article in a national publication isn’t too shabby, either.)
Whether you’re writing your first press release or your fiftieth, the bare bones don’t vary much. Any search engine will pull up hundreds of examples almost identical in structure. It’s the picture you paint within this framework that will make your information pop. (However, I suggest before even attempting to write a release, you research releases from companies similar to yours to spark some ideas and gain a sense of tone for your intended market).
There are many approaches one can take in creating a release. Some start with an outline of the facts and expand. Some freestyle it—just write and see where the pen takes you. For Laura Mullen, a public relations professional who has been in book publicity and corporate book publishing for 19 years, and has written hundreds of press releases in her career, an outline isn’t necessarily her game plan. “But I do note the facts I want to get across and build the message from there," she says. "It helps to know the angle you are going to take before you sit down to write the release, but there are times when that angle will evolve as you begin writing and thinking about your subject and message.”
Whether you begin with an outline, write the copy first, headline second, or vice versa, if adhering to the basic rules, you’ll make your statement. But by paying extra attention to the highlighted tips provided by press release-writing extraordinaire Laura Mullen, you’ll knock your statement out of the park and onto the pages of The New York Times.
For Immediate Release: If your press release contains information to report to the public now, it is wise to include the words FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE in all caps above the headline, either on the right, left, or near the top. (I’ve seen it in a variety of places. Go with whatever is aesthetically pleasing.) This lets the media know that the information presented is ready to be shared with the public.
The Headline: Keep it brief. “A strong headline and opening paragraph are key. Remember that media people are bombarded on a daily basis with press releases and pitches, and often will simply scan the top of a press release and continue reading only the ones that immediately interest them,” advises Laura. A high percentage of releases end up in the recycle bin without ever being read—and that’s a waste of your time and natural resources. Your goal is to grab the attention of your audience (think newspaper headlines) and reel them in. If you can get them past the headline, you’ve already succeeded. (Hint: If you can squeeze your company name into the headline, do it!)