How to write an effective press release

I recently wrote this for the business reality website www.inafishbowl.com if you haven’t seen it there, have look here and then head over to the site for some great free advice on building, running and growing a business.

PR is about key messages reinforced over time. Ad hoc efforts are understandable but to really make an impact it is best to devise a full campaign.

Keep it simple

People worry that their efforts don’t sound flashy enough to warrant attention but you aren’t aiming for a Booker Prize, you are aiming for coherent and interesting NEWS. I’ve banged on before about this and I’m afraid it is crucial. If the story isn’t new then it just isn’t news and falls at the first hurdle.

Structure

Use “Who, What, When, How and Why?” as a framework and imagine yourself as the journalist. Is this definitely of interest to their readers? Is it simple enough to understand? Does it stand up on its own?

I would stick to 300 words maximum and try and be even more brief if possible. Keep the press release focussed on the story/news angle. Don’t be tempted to waffle about the business in general or about the way it is run unless that is the angle. You can add all of the “about us” stuff in an editors’ notes section after the press release with your captioned photos.

Hit them between the eyes

Journalists get hundreds of press releases every day and are not going to scan through trying to find something of relevance. I prefer to call the journalist beforehand to outline my story and refine it for their audience. This helps iron out any creases and demonstrates that you are trying to work with them and with their audience in mind.

Don’t be tempted to start hassling

Some PRs will disagree but NEVER chase a journalist once you have sent it. If it is good enough, they will use it. Hassling will not push it to the top of the pile and may see it heading towards the recycle bin. Be patient and able to help if the journalist does come back and don’t go on holiday the day after you have sent a story out.

Hooked on news

If you do lack “news” all is not lost. You may be able to find a “hook” by providing relevant insight or commentary on a current trend or topic. Ever wonder why familiar faces crop up in features in magazines or on the radio? It is because they are ready and reliable sources and they come through.

Build a relationship

PR is not a “them v us” war with journalists, it is a working relationship where both parties stand to gain. They get insight and/or news, you get free publicity in exchange for a fresh take on things or for your role in illustrating an issue.

I could go on and on about layout but there isn’t time in this brief overview so just remember, keep it simple and keep it relevant.

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