Writing a press release is not as easy as it seems, especially if you want your news to receive the coverage it deserves.
- The press release must have some news content…it cannot be a sales/marketing document. Look at your target media and see what sort of stories they are running.
- Most important parts of the press release are the headline and first paragraph. The headline needs to grab the journalist’s attention. The first paragraph needs to encapsulate what the whole release is about. Always have the most important information at the start of the release and keep supplementary/background information towards the bottom. Always include a contact number (ideally mobile) where the journalist can quickly get you if they need further information. Respond to any media enquiries as quickly as possible as they are usually on tight deadlines. Also date the release, a journalist wont cover old news.
- Don’t send the release as an attachment – paste the text into the body of the email. Journalists won’t take the time to open an attachment as well as the security implications of opening a document from an unknown source.
- Don’t send images as attachments but indicate on the release where the media can access them quickly (link to dropbox or website). Images should be hi-res (min 300 dpi) for publications but can be lower res for website use. Ideally keep an image library of people, product shots etc so that they are to hand quickly. Wherever possible use a professional photographer – it is worth the investment as the media will reject poor quality images.
- Proper targeting – find out who should receive your press releases in your target press. For example, there is no point in sending a release to the editor of a national paper as it is a managerial position – find out who is the specialist writer for your sector.
- Most trade publications publish a calendar of features for 12-months – find out what your target media are going to cover in advance and contact the editor/writer with ideas that your organisation could submit.
- Do not phone journalists to ask if they have received your press release. They receive 100’s of releases per day and they are very busy so hate interruptions!
- Find out what the deadlines are on your target press. Your hot news won’t be so hot if it arrives two hours after the deadline.
- Don’t ask to see the article before it is published. The exception to this rule is if it is a highly technical subject and the journalist may volunteer to send it to you for fact-checking.
- Journalists are incredibly busy and work to tight deadlines therefore you need to be able to pitch your ideas very concisely. Think of three key points you want to get across and focus on these when speaking to the media.