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Press releases – old news or must haves?

What is a press release? Do I need one? How do I write it?

I get asked these questions a lot. There is no “one size fits all” answer as it very much depends what your objectives are.  I prefer to find out what a client is trying to achieve before advising on the best approach to reach their target audience and it’s not always all about the press release!

There are lots of other ways of making your voice heard, from thought leadership in the form of an opinion piece or guest blog, or being interviewed on the podcasts or radio programmes your target audiences listen to.

The lowdown on press releases

They tend to be used by bigger organisations to make specific announcements to a range of outlets, and some media prefer this approach. There is an ongoing debate within the industry as to whether they are ‘old news’ as the traditional news cycle has changed so much.

Some feature journalists have told me they don’t like press releases and prefer to receive a well-thought out pitch to decide whether they want to interview one of my clients.

Other outlets who are short of time and long on deadlines, particularly those on business desks, find it a useful way to be able to decide quickly if a story works for them.

Why you might need one

Having written probably nearly 1,000 press releases for clients over the years and having been on the receiving end of just as many when I was a journalist I’ll consider myself well-placed to give a few tips on what you should think about before deciding to draft one. Ask yourself:

  • What’s new about what I want to say?
  • Is there a quirky or unusual angle to my story?
  • Why would it be of interest to the media outlet’s audience? You should always make sure to what kind of stories their audience like before attempting to pitch a story

Tips to make your press release work

If you can answer these questions and think you should go ahead and draft a press release then these are key considerations:

  • Make clear what it’s about in the subject box – use the words ‘press release’ and say what it is in a few words. Many journalists get hundreds of emails a day so don’t make yours one of the ones that gets deleted without being read!
  • Get to the point – If your first sentence doesn’t interest them they may not read any further. It should use the style of a news story and summarise your announcement. Many decisions to run a story (or not!) get made in the first 10 seconds of reading the release!
  • Always think about the who, why, what, where and when of your story and don’t leave out any key facts
  • Don’t use jargon or very technical terms for mainstream media – if the journalist has to google what you mean, you’re probably off to a bad start
  • Be concise – you should keep it under 500 words.
  • Quotes – These are good because they can add some of your company’s personality to the release. Three or four sentences is plenty. Try to avoid clichés. “I’m delighted..” is one I try to leave out.
  • Do provide background information about the company as the journalist may know nothing about it. But be sure to put them in the Notes to Editor section at the bottom of the release with a link to the website
  • Statistics are good if relevant – but make sure you state the source and a link so they can see they are from a reputable source.

If you need help with writing a great press release or support with working on your brand story or a thought leadership piece do get in touch. We can start with a 1:1 strategy session

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