Press release writing is tricky, and it’s often an overlooked and underappreciated skill. Press release writing is an official communication from a business to any media or news outlets, typically announcing something considered newsworthy. A press release needs to follow Associated Press (AP) format, so if a journalist does not have the time to rewrite or research up on your business or client, they can immediately send out the release for publishing.
This is precisely why writing a press release is so important. This is the first information a journalist will see about your client/product, so if it is not composed as correctly as possible, you’ll significantly decrease you chances of getting the word out.
- Whether it’s a hook or a headline, keep it catchy but relevant. A “hook” is one of those writing terms taught in 8th grade English classes, and then rarely, if ever, mentioned again. This is a problem, because it starts the beginning of your article and often determines whether or not a person will continue reading on past that point. Hooks can be catchy, or punny, or informative, but they always need to be relevant to your subject.
- If you can only choose pointed or poetic, always choose pointed. When it comes to press releases, you want to keep it simple. Throwing in unnecessary jargon or flowery language just serves to confuse people. Additionally, keep it brief—press releases should almost always be a page long, and never more than two. That’s about 400-500 words in total.
- The facts are your friend. This really goes hand in hand with rule #2, but it’s important enough that I think it needs its own distinction. There is no hyperbole in press release writing. Don’t exaggerate or stretch the truth. Ideally, you should answer the key five Ws and H (who, what, where, when, and why) in the first paragraph, so your readers know what they’re reading.
- Why should anyone care? It sounds callous, but it really is the best way to think about your press release. The entire time you’re writing, keep asking yourself, “Why should anyone care about this event?”, “Why would they find this important?”, “Why should they keep reading?” and then answer those questions. Prove why this is important, and if possible, tie it back to anything relevant happening in the news.
- Pics or it didn’t happen. Your press release doesn’t always need pictures, but if you have any references, use them. That can mean photographs, or videos or links. If you have material that could make your press release more interesting, use it.
In the end, I find it’s best to think of a press release as my own kind of logic puzzle. You might get frustrated at times, or even stuck, but if you work with it long enough you eventually find a good rhythm. Additionally, click here for a sample press release with which to base your formatting.
Initially, this article was twice as long. I guess it turns out that I have a lot to say regarding writing and PR! So be on the lookout for Part 2!
If you need any additional PR assistance that cannot be answered by my article, visit our Grass Roots Marketing PR page, here.