Even Luke Skywalker was tempted by The Dark Side and, at some point in their careers, most reporters and writers will be, too.
“Star Wars” analogies aside, there are many reasons to learn how to write press releases, even if you never do paid public relations work. Knowing how to write an effective press release can come in handy for the small business owner who wants to get the word out about her company, for organizers of charity events and other fundraising efforts, or for authors and artists who want to publicize their newest self-published book or other work. And, while it can feel odd at first to toot your own horn and bang your own drum, there’s really nothing wrong with being your own one-man band when you’ve got something newsworthy or unique to share.
With that in mind, here are a few tips on how to write an effective press release.
Good Press Releases:
- are newsworthy.
- have an attention-getting headline and lead.
- are accurate, objective, and contain sources for follow-up calls and contacts.
- take into account impact on the public and classic news values including proximity and timeliness.
So, what can you do to generate a newsworthy press release?
- emphasize ties with current events
- conduct a survey
- issue a report
- interview a celebrity
- tie in with a holiday
- stage a special event
- organize a tour
- adapt national reports for the local market
- hold a contest
- address a controversy
Once you’ve got something newsworthy to write about:
- identify your audience and tailor your writing. Would an editor at the local newspaper be interested, or is your news better suited for a trade magazine that specializes on covering your industry?
- decide whether the release will be news oriented or feature oriented. Are you holding a meatball eating contest or did you just release a blockbuster new product that will double the size of your workforce? Your writing style should reflect the content of the release.
- write an attention-getting headline, then identify the theme and put it in the lead. Your reader should know immediately what your release is about.
- include information in the body of the release to support the theme and weave in lots of strong quotes from sources. Even if a reporter develops his or her own story from a press release, these quotes will sometimes be used word for word, making them a great way to get your message out.
- take the time to send your release to the right person. Don’t just send your press release to the generic email address listed on a newspaper, television station, or magazine’s contact page. Find the address of a specific editor or reporter and send your release directly. That being said, make sure your release is actually worth reading. If it is, you are likely to at least garner some respect for your company or cause, even if you don’t generate positive publicity.
I can say from personal experience that these tips really work. I’ve written or edited a number of press releases on a volunteer basis for everything from my fiance’s country band to a friend’s non-profit wine bar, and each release has generated multiple stories. This semester, some of my students found similar success when their releases resulted in stories or even ran verbatim in the local daily newspaper.
So, feel free to explore The Dark Side, because it might not be so bad after all.