Whether your business is a single-person startup or a multinational conglomerate, at some point you will need a quality press release. From a maxed-out crowdfunding goal to new must-have product or service, press releases are a simple, cost-effective way to get the word out about your good news.
Press releases date back to the ancient times before the Internet but they’ve remained a vital tool for getting your message out in the digital age. While print magazines and newspapers were once the main targets for press releases, these days bloggers, journalists and digital outlets can help transform your story into a newsworthy headline. And unlike the old analog days, one great piece of coverage not only drives awareness, but it can also provide an SEO ripple effect that brings your brand to a whole new audience.
Crafting a newsworthy press release and pitching it to the right outlets can open a new level of PR success, but it takes the right approach. So, we’ve gone direct to some our most experienced press release writers to get their insights on what the best approach is. In this article, we’ll cover some do’s and don’ts to help you write fun, professional press releases that can make an impact for your brand.
Press Release Primer: How to Make A Newsworthy Story Stand Out
Before you start writing a press release you should ask yourself this simple question: “Is this actually a newsworthy story?” Of course, you’re doing big things, but remember that people outside of your organization may not find every new development important enough to read about. This is especially true for media outlets.
For example, fashion blogger Melanie DiSalvo of Virtue + Vice explains that jumping into an ongoing trend isn’t enough to catch her attention:
” … At this point, I ignore press releases that highlight a brand’s buy one give one model, or if they are making swim or yoga clothes out of recycled water bottles. Everyone is doing that these days. It has to be a unique idea. For me, it’s not so much the press release, but learning about something new and exciting that is not currently being done.”
It can be hard to tell if your story is truly newsworthy, but luckily there are a few simple methods you can use to ensure that your press release has the traction it needs to become a news article.
Play It (Mostly) Cool
Getting media coverage for your news story is largely about credibility. Good thing your brand is oozing with street cred! But how can you be sure that writers, editors, bloggers and industry tastemakers will find your brand worthy of exposure? One of the fastest ways to blow it is by constantly blasting out press releases about every little event that happens within your organization.
Nobody likes spam emails, and media outlets are constantly inundated with requests for coverage. So if you’ve been issuing many press releases hoping to “stay on the radar” of press outlets but haven’t had any coverage, consider reducing your frequency and only issuing a release about the biggest, most important news items.
Keep the “New” in Newsworthy
Drafting a press release may feel like a lesser priority when you’re ramping up for a newsworthy event, but don’t put it off for too long. Any event could have the potential to bring new exposure to your business, but not if it happened 18 months ago.
Media outlets work on tight schedules and require a constant flow of new content to keep their readers engaged. It’s critical, therefore, that you only issue a press release about current stories or those coming in the very near future. Don’t jump too far down the road though or the public may forget about your event before it even happens.
When in doubt, reach out to your target media outlets and ask them how much lead time they need and set your release date accordingly.
Think Outside the Office Walls
Within the culture of an organization, any little shakeup can feel like a seismic shift. It’s important to remember that most outsiders won’t pick up every nuance of your business the way that you do. To help decide if your event is truly newsworthy, keep an eye on news articles about your industry and community at large.
If you’re unsure whether your story is worthy of a news release, ask yourself if it will have implications for your industry outside of your office space. Could your story even transcend your industry on a cultural level? If you can confidently say yes to either of these questions, then it’s a safe bet your story is newsworthy and deserves a solid press release.
Craft Your Press Release for Maximum Impact
If your company has news like a game-changing new product, a venerated CEO retiring or a new mega-merger then you’ll need to tell the world. But having a newsworthy story isn’t enough. You also need to have a well-written press release.
A press release ultimately serves to make a journalist’s life easier by offering them a compelling story in a bite-sized chunk that they can run with. So if your press release is a long-winded, confusing mess then tear it up and start again. Because after all, your press release can only be newsworthy if writers are willing to make it into news.
Short, Fun and to the Point
One of the easiest ways to make your press release shine is by keeping things brief. A PR industry standard is that a press release should never be longer than one page. It should also follow a fairly specific template that’s common across industries. If your story is newsworthy, its impact will be self-evident and you won’t need thousands of words to get your point across.
To help keep things brief, avoid presenting too much background information about you and your firm outside of the standard boilerplate section. Include contact information like your website and phone number, but trust that readers will seek out more info about you if they need it. Also, avoid using too much technical language or industry jargon to tell your story. Most media outlets aim for at least some degree of diversity in their readership and they may be hesitant to pick up a story that’s too technical.
Brevity is not only important for your overall word length, but also for your writing style. Keep your sentence structures simple and easy to read by avoiding excessive superlatives and adjectives. Your company’s new product may be “amazing” and “groundbreaking” but if so, you only need to say it once. This kind of language can quickly expand your word count and make your news story feel oversold.
Instead of leaning on fluffy language to tell your story, consider including original data. There’s little that can prove how awesome you are like cold, hard numbers. If your business works with measurable metrics then get creative and look about how your impressive numbers tie in with a broader cultural story.
While it’s important to keep your press release tight and fast-reading, don’t be afraid to give it some character. Your story is unique and so is your organization, so let your singular voice shine through in your writing. Editors receive stacks of bone dry, cookie-cutter press releases every day and a dash of whit and genuine passion may push your release to the top of the pile. So have fun with it and enjoy the process of turning your passion into a newsworthy story.
Keep Your Headlines Above Water
The headlines in your press release are the first point of contact and it’s critical that you make them count. Headlines have an outsized responsibility because they have to convey critical information in your story and also hook the reader in the shortest length possible. The key here is to keep things simple.
If you can tell your entire story in a single line that’s also imbued with wit and personality, then, by all means, go ahead, but it’s more important to convey the critical information in a tidy package. That’s because Google search headings are limited to 70 characters and a partial heading can seem misleading or confusing to potential readers looking for your story. Keeping your titles short and sweet not only helps with search results but also brings the reader right to your point with immediate impact.
Find Your Target Audience
Once you have a well-crafted press release about a newsworthy story you’ll need to get it into the right hands. While your press release should ideally have relevance beyond your specific industry, it’s critically important that you contact media outlets that cover your specific niche.
Think Like A Journalist
When you start to send your press releases to news outlets, remember that they are businesses relying on top-shelf content to keep their readership engaged. Start by seeking out the publications that only tell stories like yours or create content about your industry. If your news has broader appeal then bigger outlets may pick up your story after it gets coverage on a smaller scale.
Bottom line – you want to craft a press release that a journalist or blogger could easily pick up and present to his or her audience.
It’s All About That Niche
Blogs, social media and digital magazines have a major influence on today’s media climate. Many of these smaller outlets have risen above the cacophony by narrowing their focus to a single niche. No matter the news you hope to share, there’s a good chance that a social media influencer or blogger could lend a trusted, credible voice to your story.
Dig deep to find the experts in your field who are active bloggers or social media users. If you can’t find any, contact outlets in adjacent niches and see if they can recommend anyone. Once you find the right niche outlets for your story, tailor your press release to each recipient and highlight the ways in which your story is relevant to their interests. Specificity is king and if you can find the right niche outlet to cover your story you may find a media ally that will stick with your brand for years to come.
Break Through the Noise
If you’ve got a great story to tell then a well-crafted press release could be the perfect tool to help bring that story to the world. With today’s frictionless media, it’s easier than ever to take a newsworthy story from a basement workshop to the global stage with the help of just a few passionate bloggers.
If you can honestly say that your story is newsworthy and you’re willing to keep your writing simple and compelling, then you may have all that you need to claim headlines within your niche and beyond. So roll up your sleeves, fire up your laptop, and crank out a press release that’s worthy of your unique story!