A press release stands out as one of the most important strategies of any public relations campaign. It is a short story usually detailing new product announcements, milestones, and feature launches, insightful data, among other stories. Indeed, press releases are more responsible for most publications or TV interviews in the last few decades.
Despite the changing times, the importance of the press release cannot be overshadowed by changes in technology like the emergence of social media or mobile devices. Publications and the media fraternity too has continued to grow with technological advancements. This has seen the emergence of websites while televisions and radio continue to be mainstays in the 21st century.
Therefore, for any startup that wishes to go a mile higher, press releases are a worthy proposition. Reporters and journalists read numerous press releases as they seek for stories to feature. The only con is that there are too many press releases filling up reporters’ inboxes. Standing out from this crowd is the main reason for this post.
Answer the 5 W’s
A press release should be focused on answering each of the following questions:
A) Who? — Identify the important parties of the release. This will mostly include your company and the product.
B) What? — Ascertain what uniqueness this press release focuses on. In short, what is so unique about the story you are looking to send out.
C) Why? — Why should anyone bother reading your press release? In short, identify why anyone should care.
D) Where? — Inform on where this story is happening especially when a geographical location makes your story even more attractive.
E) When? — Identify when this story is happening.
If your press release can answer those 5 questions, you just need to focus on making it better by following the tips below:
It is important that your story is newsworthy. It should be something that people should want to care about. In fact, every time you write a press release, follow the following steps in justifying it;
a) Identify the story; what is it? A product launch? News about new personnel? Milestone? Feature launch? New investor?
b) Identify its uniqueness; what makes your story so extraordinary?
c) Identify the people that will be interested in it; for a story to be published, it has to pick the interest of a certain market. Find out which publication and journalists might want to publish your story and get contacts of said reporters by using a tool like Pressfarm.
d) Ascertain why anyone should bother; there is no point trying to put out a press release that you know will not get any eyeballs. It is good to ask yourself whether anyone will care, and why.
If you can answer these questions with all honesty, especially why your story is unique, you will probably be on the right path to that perfect press release.
The right headline should be a killer headline. When people see that headline they should not resist or even think of resisting to continue reading your release further.
Attractive headlines are also what journalists live for. If your headline is good, and straight forward, your press release gets opened. This increases your chances of getting published somewhere.
3. Focused first line
The first line has to be on point. It has to answer the 5 W’s namely who, what, where, when, and why as discussed above.
It should be a very short 15–20 word sentence that pulls the attention of the person reading it to ensure they continue reading until the end.
Weak first lines of press releases come out as boring. Most of the time, a journalist will have passed on a press release halfway through a boring first line and gone to read another email in their inbox.
The right length of a press release is about a page. This ranges between 300–400 words. Anything longer than this is probably missing the point.
Like any good writing, press releases have their own preferred length recommendations.
Unfortunately, a press release is not a blog post. Short and sweet usually works wonders in this case.
Data is very important. Can you back up your story with the right numbers?
Proof renders you credible and not just some publicity-hungry founder or startup seeking media love. Credibility in the media circles goes a long way in getting your story in front of the right eyes.
To make for a compelling story, ensure you provide hard numbers for that milestone or product announcement that you seek to publicize.
The worst press release has got to be the one with grammatical mistakes and spelling errors. Your release has to be flawless.
Once a journalist begins to read it and realizes they’re struggling to understand it, their mind totally shuts off. You do not want that.
A story should have a quote or two. Remember that quotes should not be used as sources of information.
Quotes are meant to provide valuable insights to how the product changes the lives of customers. They are not meant to explain the product.
Therefore, as a rule of thumb, quotes should not contain all that technical jargon that your normal customer won’t understand.
You can get quotes from your employees, or existing clients. Those quotes should emphasise the story, its uniqueness and why people should care about your product in very simple terms.
Since a press release can’t be too long, you might be looking to add some more information but have to leave it out to avoid boring people with your long story. In this case, provide links to important resources such as a benefits page or product media kit.
Journalists that would be interested in more information will not mind going to check in the links provided.
Having looked at the critical points to an effective startup press release, below is a checklist you should always follow;
- Find out if it’s a newsworthy story before working on the release.
- Identify the target press and media that might be interested.
- Check the tone and style of the target press and media to understand their style of writing.
- Answer the 5 W’s: Who, what, why, where and when?
- Draft your first press release and revise it about 10 more times before sending it out. Seriously. The first four drafts you will write will all be crap.
- Find someone to quote either from your organisation or outside interested parties.
- Ensure the grammar and spelling is right.
- Provide links to more information whenever useful.
Is there anything else we have left out? Tweet us at @thepressfarm.
Originally published at press.farm on January 29, 2017.