Who’s going to read this? Writing your press release for journalists
Published on October 22nd, 2012 by Renee Sylvestre-Williams
Editors and journalists are bombarded by hundreds of press releases each day, each one drafted with the same goal in mind — placement in a news story somewhere. So what makes a press release successful? Is there a formula for writing a press release that grabs newsmakers’ attention so that your company’s news winds up in a publication or on a broadcast? Well, no, of course there isn’t. But there are several things you can do to entice the media to make your news their news.
Let the headline tell the story. This is really the make-or-break component of a news release, the most important 15 words of a PR campaign, so choose them wisely. Journalists hunting down a story angle will be skimming at best, so make sure it’s concisely written, preferably in a quickly-read subject-verb-object sentence structure. Get to the point, but don’t be over-obvious; use active verbs, and lose the jargon. The headline is also rich in SEO value, so remember to plug in your keywords. Read more about writing a better headline.
Package your story with multimedia. Do not force an editor make an extra phone call to track down the necessary images to run your news. Editors are already pressed for time, so the less work they have to do, the more likely they are to pick up your news. Be smart about it — think about the types of images media outlets run to accompany the story you’re telling (a head shot of the new CEO, a map of a new land development, a shop specification of a new product) and attach it to your release. Remember that photo editors still need a large, hi-resolution photo if they’re going to repurpose your image in a print format; Marketwire supports photos up to 1 MB, and it’s good practice to link the hi-res version to the electronic copy’s clickable thumbnail. Having a caption helps ensure that journalist reading your copy know what they’re looking at and can easily re-use the image in a news story. Up the ante even further by embedding video in your Marketwire release. Read more about using Marketwire multimedia.
Put your news in context. Rarely will a journalist be looking for one company’s news specifically. Much of the time, journalists want to talk about an industry trend or something happening across markets; the “how” and “why” and “so what” questions are becoming more and more important in today’s news cycle. By positioning your news in the context of a larger story, it becomes more attractive to media types.
Make it obvious and get to the point. It cannot be emphasized enough: journalists are too busy to read (or skim for that matter) more than a headline and at most a paragraph to glean whether a release is newsworthy. If your copy is going too much over 400 words (which is about three good sized paragraphs) you risk the reader losing the interest in the text. Remember if you grab from the get-go, journalist will follow up with a direct phone call to your Media Relations consultant. So hit them hard with your truth and make clear why your news is important to their readership. The “inverted pyramid” structure — putting the most important information high in the release and working down from there — is the preferred format in the industry. More on the inverted pyramid and press release structure.
Infuse SEO terms throughout your release. When hunting down a story angle, most journalists aren’t just sifting through their inboxes hoping for that one magical release to trigger a Eureka! moment. Instead, they’re using web searches to browse topics and trends. This is where inserting keywords strategically into certain SEO-sensitive points of your release will help put your news in front of the right journalist at the right time. Marketwire offers great tools to analyze SEO strength in your press release, and several great tips for drafting strong SEO copy to help your news index on web searches for maximum exposure.
Using this basic recipe for putting together a successful release, and by implementing these five best practices into your copy, you will certainly give your news a strong foundation for yielding the results and media attention that you’re after. Give it a little kick and you’re sure to get a journalist call back.