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How to write a successful press release

A well-written press release is key to getting journalists interested in putting your company’s name in print. Read our tips for writing successful press releases and improve your chances of getting some free publicity in the media.

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Plan your press release

Before you even touch that keyboard, think, what is the purpose of your press release and what do you want to gain from it? If you are just sending out a press release for the sake of it, STOP.

Releases that lack focus and aren't ‘newsworthy' won't make it any further than the journalist's inbox. Only send a press release if you have something worth saying. Also consider what kind of publications you want the story to appear in (preferably the kind your potential customers read!) and do your research. Look at the style and tone of other articles in these publications and write your release accordingly.

Write for your audience

It's important to remember that you aren't writing an article for direct publication to your potential customers. The purpose of a press release is to communicate your story and the information to support it to journalists. Make sure you give them what they need to know. A press release is not a sales pitch for your company. Anything that reads like promotional material will be deleted straight away.

The story must be newsworthy and this may differ depending on whether you're targeting national, local or trade media. Remember, what is interesting to you may not be that interesting to anyone else.

You may need to tailor your press release to target different publications. While this can create more work, a tailored press release is far more likely to be used than a generic one.

Make it easy to use

To increase your chances of having your story published, it helps to make the journalist's job as simple as possible. You can do this by:

  • Presenting the release in a simple, easy to read format with a large, clear typeface.
  • Using simple language, short sentences and bullet points to highlight key facts.
  • Keeping your press release between 350 and 500 words long.
  • Marking it 'Press Release', so the journalist knows what it is, and write 'End of Release' between the story and your contact details and company information.
  • Adding your contact details (including landline, mobile, email and website) so that a journalist can get in touch easily. If you're difficult to contact, a journalist will move on and find another source of information or quotes.
  • Writing a clear, descriptive headline. Journalists receive hundreds of releases a day. They don't have time to work out what your clever cryptic headline means.
  • Getting to the point as quickly as possible. News stories are usually written in an ‘inverted pyramid' format, which means they start with the most important information first, followed by supporting information and then background information. So, if you've made a ground-breaking discovery or have an interesting new statistic, lead with this first rather than a potted history of your company.
  • Answering the five key questions that every good news story must cover: Who? What? Where? When? Why?

If you need help setting out your press release, download a free press release template here.

Establish your credibility

You should always include some information about yourself and your company, but keep this brief and separate from the main body of the release. Your company biography won't be quoted in any resulting news story, but it does explain to the journalist why they should trust you as an expert on the subject you're writing about.

Include quotes

Quotes give your story colour and character, and are also very useful to journalists. Make sure that they are informative and support the main story in your release. Include pictures Good pictures are particularly valuable to journalists and editors, so including one of these can greatly improve your chances of publication. However, they must be good quality and it helps if you can provide them in the correct format or size for the publication. Always include a descriptive caption for your images and ensure that you own the copyright for them.

What next?

You can always follow up your press release with a phone call. If your press releases aren't being used, it may be worth asking why not and if there is anything you can do to make them more relevant and useful.

Want more? Members of the Forum can download a free guide on how to use PR to boost their business.