First impressions: the first paragraph of your press release
Published on September 24th, 2012 by Renee Sylvestre-Williams
“You don’t get a second chance at a first impression.” This statement holds true in many regards, including when writing a press release. The first paragraph of your release will either grab the reader’s attention, or make them lose interest and move on. Pull them in to keep reading by including the most pertinent and interesting facts up front.
The following tips will help make your first paragraph memorable, informative, and most importantly, make your audience keep reading:
- Include the most important information first. If a reader has to wait until the end of the release for the facts that they need, you will have already lost them. “Your first paragraph is the most important part of your press release, because it may be your only chance to capture the eyes and attention of media and consumers. You need to explicitly state the name of the company or organization that is announcing news, along with what the nature of that news is. If you fail to do this in the first ‘graph of your release, you run the risk of losing your intended audience right off the bat,” says Mitch Schneider, a Senior Account Executive at Marketwire for almost 7 years, who has also worked in public relations.
- Keep it short. The first paragraph should be no more than 3-5 short sentences. Don’t waste time with drawn out explanations; get down to the basics and save elaborations for the later paragraphs. According to Lori-Ann Harbridge, Senior Editor, who has been at Marketwire for more than 10 years, “It’s important to have all the relevant details of the announcement in the first paragraph of your release. Think WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE and WHY. Journalists don’t always have time to read the entire release, so get to the point and make it interesting.”
- Make it unique and relatable. Draw your readers in by asking a question, including an anecdote, or aligning your release with a topic that is of personal or public interest to your audience. Tie in your announcement with a current event, hot topic, or make it timely by aligning it with the season or any upcoming holidays. Know your audience and what they are looking for. For example, if you are writing a Features release, your first paragraph should be “timeless” and easy for journalists to reprint word-for-word. Be sure your first paragraph highlights why this news is important to your readers. Above all, make it interesting!
Aside from the headline, the first paragraph of a release is the most important element to either make a journalist or consumer invest their time in reading your news, or disregard it entirely. It should demonstrate why this news is important and unique. All the necessary facts should come first, and any further explanations or secondary information can follow later in the release to support the main details.