How to Write a Successful Press Release
It's Not What You Say But How You Say It
Recently, I had a client contact me regarding putting a product release announcement in one of our company's newsletters. It was a new product that they were very excited about and she thanked me thoroughly about giving them the opportunity to get the word out. She told me that they were sending the press release later that day. When I did get the release, I had to break it to them gently that I couldn't use it.
Press releases are a fickle thing. They can easily be loaded with too much detail or are too technical. Some can go the other way and have not enough information or are too happy-go-lucky and wishy-washy or even cutesy. Some may be photo-heavy and not have enough text or description. In the case of our client, the information that they sent me was basically some hot-points on the new product with a couple of poor quality photos thrown for good measure.
I know that I don't know everything and that people go to different schools and were trained by or worked for different experts, but I have gathered some knowledge and have gleaned some ideas on what works and what doesn't from those that have been doing this a lot longer than I have.
One thing that I become very aware of when it comes to turning around or publishing a press release is that many companies (including my own), for legal reasons, will only accept and re-publish press or news releases that they don't have to edit in any way. The main reason being that if they edit a release and somehow got the information wrong, there's a nice lawsuit waiting to happen.
If ABC Turkey Co., announced that it will give away a free lunch to all high school honor students and somebody publishes that ABC Turkey Co. is giving away free lunches (not mentioning the HS students), you can see were the problem arises and the lawyers start calling.
The 'No Edit' rule also has some side benefits, especially for editors. Editors are like everybody else when it comes to the "having a lot of work to do with not enough time to do it department".
An editor of a trade journal or newsletter has room for two product announcements. In his email inbox, he has four press releases. Two of the releases are basic outlines and maybe a photo or two of the product. The other two releases has three or four paragraphs of good description, along with a jpg of the product plus the company logo for each.
Which two stories will he use?
Again, having been on both sides of the press release spectrum, here are some simple tips to make sure that your releases are read and, most importantly, acted upon.
- Keep it newsy. If it reads like a news story, editors are more likely willing to include it in their publication.
- Try to keep away date specific terms like "announced today" or "today introduced". "Today" might not get published for a few weeks. By sticking with a simple 'announced' or 'introduced' without the date, you avoid that 'no edit' rule.
- It's OK to refer to your company in the third person. Again, it gets back to that newsy feel. Instead of "we at ABC Corp...," just use "ABC Corp". Also, try to stick with "they" instead of "we".
- Hold back with the flowers! Try to avoid "we are so pleased to introduce" or "very excited" or any other description that describes your feelings about your announcement. You will be much more pleased if your release gets picked up.
- You don't have to keep it simple, but you don't need to get too technical, either. Initially, most people that are going to read this are writers and editors that may or may not be experts in the industry that they're covering.
- Again, NEWSY! Think of this as a news story and write it as such. You can even make up quotes- just make sure that whoever you're quoting approves them before you sent it out.
- Put it on your website after you send it. Somebody might trip over it weeks after you send it out.
The only purpose of issuing a news or press release is to get it published somewhere. By following some of these tips, chances are that just might happen.