In a previous life, I was a journalist. First for the military, then for a community newspaper in New Hampshire. One constant was the influx of press release submissions that crossed my desk each week. Some made me pay attention. Most helped me practice my hook shot in the waste paper basket.
Weighing the merits of a press release isn’t personal, but rather a necessity. News agencies have a reputation to uphold. They print only what would interest their readers. If they don’t, they lose customers. Part of my job was determining what was newsworthy and what was pure promotion. I did this to maintain the papers’ credibility. Through practice, I became quite good at recognizing great press releases and furthermore, learned to write them well myself. As a marketer for small businesses, artists and authors this skill has come in handy.
To that end, I assure you that these five steps will help craft a solid press release, and with practice and skill, you will start to see a little free publicity for your company or cause.
A press release is a selling tool
Because the purpose of a press release is to promote your message to the public, using an established public medium such as a newspaper, television station or website is a great choice. Hence, the concept is that by having them run press release, their credibility will carry over to your message.
First and foremost, write your release with clients and customers in mind. Accordingly, provide the information they want. What is the story about? How will this story help them? Why do they need your service? Who can they contact for more information? Where can they buy it? Just as in a true news story you provide answers to customer questions. Only in a press release, the manner of the information serves your purposes as well.
ensure your press release is newsworthy
Next, consider whether your release is actually newsworthy. If the first draft isn’t, spin it so that it is. Think like a news consumer and ask yourself, honestly, if the release sounds like news you can use or a fancied-up advertisement. It is an important step, as one type will end up in the paper and the other in the waste paper bin.
Your job is to convince the editor that your release is newsworthy and has value to the public.
A good example of a bad press release:
MANCHESTER, New Hampshire – ACME Mattress Depot announces a three-day sales clearance of all floor model and return merchandise at up to 20% discount from suggested retail prices.
“Customers are encouraged to shop early to avoid the crowds,” said store manager Ted Spirolakis. “We can’t guarantee these mattresses will last long.”
ACME Mattress Depot has been in Manchester for over five years, with stores on Elm, Willow and South Parkland Drive.
Now, a good example of a spun release:
MANCHESTER, New Hampshire- According to a recent industry report from the National Sleep Clinic, 75% of Americans are seeing a reduction in both employment satisfaction and quality time at home due to improper sleep cycles.
“To ensure a healthy night’s sleep, it’s important to switch out a mattress every 3-4 years,” said Doctor Ryan Goetheckker, Lead Researcher at the clinic. “A proper mattress supports the body in an ergonomic way as to reduce sleeping fatigue and loss of REM through constant night shifting. Mattress wear out, and not enough people take care enough to switch them every few years.”
Industry experts suggest consumers purchase new mattresses when they begin to notice discomfort in the morning or increased fatigue during the day. Doing so will improve body health and support positive sleeping habits. All things considered, improved sleep habits improves job satisfaction and a quality home life.
To raise awareness, ACME Mattress Depot is holding a Sleep Deprivation Awareness event at their three Manchester locations, with special pricing and financing available for customers effected by poor sleeping conditions.
“We know how serious this problem is,” said Ted Spirolakis, manager of the ACME Mattress Depot on Elm Street. “Because of this, we want to take action. If we can help our community realize a healthier life, then we believe it’s our obligation to do so.”
write like a reporter
In conjunction with making a release newsworthy, it must be written well with proper journalistic grammar, punctuation and spelling. If it comes across an editor’s desk feeling like a finished news story, the likelihood of it being published is much higher. Therefore, think like a reporter and write to entice a reader.
Keep your copy simple without using industry jargon. Your focus is to educate, not overwhelm. Of course, you will write the release with your interests in mind but finding a way to marry your message with attention grabbing information will make editors sit up and notice. Use facts and reliable sources to support them. Accordingly, don’t make up stuff or plagiarize. That sends a signal to the editor that anything your company sends in the future will be suspect. Maintain your credibility.
use good quotes
From here on, your task is to create exciting copy. To do so, use good quotes. A press release without quotes is just a lot of hot air. A quote from your company president or lead engineer will give further credibility to your story and entice readers to learn what experts have to say.
As this is your press release, you can ‘guide’ your sources with their language. Now, they must say it, but if their first response doesn’t work for the release, have them try again. Let them know it’s a team effort. Another great way to gain valuable quotes is to canvas existing customer to provide statements. If your press release’s topic effects them, it will surely effect their neighbors who read the paper.
follow up your press release
As email is the accepted form of communication for most news agencies, you may think it’s as simple as fire and forget once the send button is pushed. Quite the contrary. Once you have emailed your press release, call the editor or reporter to whom you sent the release and talk it up. Be professional and courteous, keeping in mind the newsworthiness of your release.
Offer to provide print and digital-ready photographs to support the story. However, if they sound hesitant to publish your release, inquire the reason why. It may be that it can be improved with a little work .
In conclusion, write your press release as if it were real news. A little spin is fine if it’s the truth, but maintain credibility. Creativity and professionalism go a long way. Use great quotes that engage readers. Become a source for great copy.
The more you write, the stronger your skills will become and the stronger your relationship will become with local editors.
I’d love to see your results. Please leave your stories in the comments below.