Articles - 20th February 2020

Writing the Perfect Press Release

Words by Jenna Farmer
Illustration by Will Francis

Everyone knows securing press coverage has the potential to rocket any business’s income, but how can you guarantee yours won’t get deleted as soon as you hit send? Journalists often receive hundreds a day so, chances are, you’ll be up against some stiff competition. But there are some tips that can help you master a press release that they’ll want to share. Jenna Farmer chats to her fellow journalists to share everything you need for the perfect press release.

 

Who are you sending your press release to?

Stop before you hit that mass send button. It might feel like the more eyes on your press release the better but it’s also a way to annoy a lot of journalists really fast. If you can, spend a minute or two reading the writer’s past work or engaging with them on twitter before you send a press release over. Try to get a sense of whether the topic is relevant to them (is it something they’ve covered before or talk about a lot?) and the publication they work for. This is particularly important for freelance journalists; who may be working for multiple publications at once. 

Do you really need a press release?

Of course, we’re assuming you do (or you wouldn’t be reading this article!), but it’s worth thinking about whether you’ve actually got something newsworthy to share before writing one. If it’s a new product you’re launching, a short email targeting relevant publications to just introduce the product and offer samples might be better placed. If your brand is established, you might feel your latest accolade is worthy of a press release, but ask yourself how interesting it is to those outside your circle? 

“I try to keep an open mind but I’ve never found update and logistics kind of press releases helpful and they are not relevant to the audience I write for,” explains journalist Sarah Griffiths, a freelance science and tech writer. “Sometimes a little nugget of info can be interesting but tell me why and how it fits into a trend or is extraordinary! Succinct descriptions, offers of samples and a link to download pics are much appreciated.” she adds.

When to send your press release

Often, one of the most frustrating things a digital journalist reads is the phrase ‘embargo.’ Whilst we understand information needs to be sent ahead of time and not published to soon if you’re hoping to appear in digital publications, do understand that things are very fast-pacedthe journalist may not want to wait several weeks to publish your story (and, by then, something bigger and better may have come along!).

In turn, make sure you’re around to reply to responses after you’ve sent the press release and your out of office isn’t on. Whilst things move swiftly in digital journalism, it might be worth bearing in mind that most print publications around work 3-4 months ahead of time. If you haven’t heard back after a week or two, it could be worth sending a polite follow-up email, but it’s unrealistic to expect a reply from every journalist you’ve sent it to.

The perfect subject header.

Avoid generic headers like ‘new press release’ and try to make yours stand out. If you can, personalise each email header to fit with the publication and person your pitching to (For example, a food brand might highlight their vegan credentials if pitching to a vegan magazine, but might focus on gifting options if pitching to be included in a valentine’s day roundup). Decide what the ‘hook’ to your piece is and make sure it’s in the prime header spot!

The subject header should clearly communicate your key message. “The most annoying thing is a press release that doesn’t have a clear angleand you have to read all the way to the end to find out what the story is,’ explains journalist Kerry Parnell.

Avoid additional attachments

Once you’ve written your subject header, you now need to effectively word your press release in the body of the main email. Don’t be tempted to attach it separately, as it’ll take up precious inbox space. The same goes for images: you might be super proud of your product shots, but do you need to attach 27? It’s far better to link to a drop folder or mention that images are available on request to save space. 

The opening paragraph

The opening paragraph of your press release should prove what makes your product newsworthy. Make sure you concisely cover the key points as soon as you can before you lose the journalist’s attention. “It’s annoying when there’s too much waffle before the actual details, e.g. the who, what, where and when etc.” explains writer Rachel Lawler.

One thing many people forget to do in a press release is focused on the bits that are actually of interest to the journalist. You might want to include your whole backstory but they’re already looking for the angle, so think carefully about what makes you and your business unique and start strong.

The main body

Keep the rest of the press release short and sweet. If including exciting new research or quotes from experts, it’s always worth making the facts clear so journalists can, if they’d like, make their job easier by lifting straight from the text. But always make sure you have your facts in order. “Do your research before making any claims.

There’s nothing worse than pitching something as ‘a world’s first’, only to have an editor point out several others existed before that one. You’ve ruined my reputation and I don’t always time to fact-check your press release,” explains Jill Starley-Grainger, travel journalist and blogger. Make the main body easy for the journalist to quickly transform it into a story. “ Sending things as PDFs so I couldn’t easily copy and paste quotes used to drive me crazy,” explains Sarah Howells, a former journalist turned blogger.

The finish line.

At the end of your press release, make sure there’s a clear point of contact as well as listing key product information. This should include things like RRP, launch date, stockists and a link to images.

Sending a press release can be nerve-wracking, so we hope these tips have made it just that little bit easier! Good luck!

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