Press releases are an integral aspect of any company’s marketing plan. Often cast aside as too expensive or time-consuming, press releases can actually be relatively simple to compose and extremely beneficial to enhancing any brand. Think of them as your gateway to free publicity.

The key to writing an effective press release is to provide information that is relevant to your target audience and interesting enough to engage a potential readership. In other words- you need to think like a journalist. The best way to start your press release is by asking, “Who is my target audience, and why do they care about this?” Once you have answered that, use these 5 tips to assist with the composition of your press release.

Write your Headline First

Okay, a real journalist would never write a headline before writing an article. However, when it comes to PR writing, it is important to focus in on a single message or you risk bombarding a journalist with too many ideas. Craft a headline that is catchy and indicative of exactly what the press release is about. If you can’t fit your point into a headline of about 10 words, then you’re trying to cram in too many ideas. Pick one and run with it.

Answer the 5 W’s

Every journalist is taught write articles that answer five simple questions: Who, What, When, Where and Why (and-when applicable-How). Look at any news article and you will see that the writer has addressed the majority of these questions within the first paragraph. This should be no different in a press release. By enticing your reader early on with basic facts, they will be encouraged to read the remainder of the article.

Of course it is not always possible to answer all five W’s in just one paragraph, but you should try. You’ll make a good impression on the journalist reading your press release by providing him or her with as much information in as few words as possible.

Keep it Short and Sweet

A press release should be 500 words at most. Keep it limited to one page, including all additional contact information and boilerplate blurbs. No one wants to read a novel about your company. Not yet anyway.

No Quote, No Story

More often than not, press releases are sent out without a single quotation from a source. This is unfortunate because most journalists believe that if there isn’t a quote, there isn’t a story. If you haven’t had the opportunity to interview someone yourself, then you should take care to provide a name (with contact information) of a source that could speak with the journalist about your story.

Think About the Readers

Writing an effective press release is all about making a journalist’s job as easy as possible. Press releases should be tailored to individual publications and written specifically for audiences that would be interested in an article about your business. Avoid using industry jargon and sales pitch buzzwords. Readers will feel more engaged if you speak to them directly, and journalists will be more likely to read and publish press releases that don’t sound too promotional.

Think About the Journalist

You should take care to ensure that you are properly researching the publications you are submitting to, and that your press release will fall into the correct hands once it gets there. It doesn’t take much effort to find the contact information for a particular section editor, and it will increase your chances of getting published.

Journalists get hundreds of press releases a day, so make an effort to personalize each email you send. Add a personal note, tell him or her why you think he or she might like your product/business, or compliment a previous published work. Journalists are human too, and everyone loves a bit of flattery.

These tips should help with getting you thinking about the content of your press release. Just remember to keep your writing simple and focused in on one key point. Thinking like the journalist who will read your press release is essential to getting you published.

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