Do you know how to write a press release? If you do it right, you can help generate some buzz for your clients.
But here’s the thing. A lot of press releases never make the cut to score a media story in print, online, on the radio, or a TV video segment. And that’s not what you want.
For example, Carol Tice recently sifted through press releases as a quick way to come up with 23 story ideas. But do you know how many press releases she deleted, skipped over, or ignored? A lot.
Knowing how to write a press release that gets results doesn’t involve hocus pocus. And it doesn’t have to be overly complicated.
But there are a few things you can do to make it easier on editors and reporters to take notice, pick up the phone, and call your client. That’s the result you want when you write a press release.
Want to know how to write a press release that generates buzz? Here’s what you need to know:
How to write a press release that fails (Don’t make these mistakes!)
Before I share my best tips for how to write a press release, let’s talk about what a press release isn’t. Don’t make these mistakes.
A press release is not:
- Your client’s life story. Ever. Period.
- A place to put all your or your client’s contact information, statistics, credentials or other space-gobbling details. If your client asks you to do this, resist.
- The place to pitch a story idea, then ramble on about prizes or awards, years in business, number of widgets sold (unless its a Guinness World Record), etc. If your press release is specifically about one of these things, fine. Otherwise, stick to the main purpose of the press release.
- The place to talk about yourself. This is all about your client’s latest and greatest news.
Got it? These are common mistakes that too many writers make when they write a press release. And it doesn’t have to be that way.
How to write a press release that actually gets picked up
If you want to write a press release for a client that actually gets picked up (check out this example), here’s what I recommend:
1. Think like an editor
While easier said than done consider this: Most editors are juggling staff, news feeds, deadlines, social media, more crushing deadlines and if they’re lucky freelancers, to fill space copy space.
They have no time. Period. They’re easily distracted. Don’t make them work too hard to get important information out of your press release.
2. Serve the Reporter’s Six
It might sound overly simple, but you’ll save an editor or reporter a lot of time if you include the answers to six basic questions:
- When? (especially if time sensitive or an event)
Answering these questions in your press release will help an editor or reporter decide if your press release is important or would be of interest to their readers.
3. Cut to the chase
Why should an editor care about what you’re sending to him or her? Why is this important to your client. You’ve got to be able to explain this in two, maybe three lines, tops.
Approach every press release like a journalist writing a news story and describe the product, service, event, non-profit mission, or whatever that way.
4. Take time to write a compelling lede
Make sure your lede (yes, that’s how the first sentence of a news story is spelled) is an attention grabber. Go straight to the heart.
When you pitch a story idea to a magazine with a query letter, your success or failure of landing an assignment often depends on your lede paragraph.
If you want to learn how to write a press release that gets picked up, give your lede sentence or lede paragraph the same kind of attention and creative effort.
5. Nail the nut graph
Every magazine article and newspaper story includes a nut graph. It’s the short paragraph near the beginning that explains what the story is all about.
Your press release should have a nut graph, too. You’ve got less than 30 seconds to capture an editor’s attention. Go!
When you take the time to write a press release this way, a couple things happen:
- An editor or reporter is more likely to follow-up on your press release, write a story, and generate buzz for your client.
- You’ll attract potential clients in your niche as the go-to writer for press releases.
6. Keep it brief
A press release should never tell the entire story, or be much longer than 250 to 300 words, but it should prompt further exploration.
Editors generally want to assign their own stories, regardless of how much is being written on any given day about the rising (or falling) price of widgets.
Keep it brief, and you’ll make it easier for an editor or reporter to follow up. And that’s what you want. Provide just enough detail, and sometimes a press release gets published to fill space or meet a news deadline. Another reason to make sure the release is well crafted.
7. Beware of editor boredom
When you write a press release, keep it focused as well as brief. Include relevant details, but don’t over-provide. Editors bore easily and they hate to guess. Don’t make them, or your press release is likely the next victim of the delete button.
8. Make contact details easy to find
If your press release doesn’t make it easy for an editor or reporter to contact the right person or get an interview, you’re in trouble.
Your client’s contact information, name, title, phone number, and email address should be easy to find in a press release. Don’t make an editor hunt for a way to reach your client.
Write buzz-worthy press releases for your clients
When I place a press release for a client, I don’t send scores of them in a blind snowstorm approach. I target the audience to the release content. And I have editorial relationships built over years as a freelance reporter, so when an editor gets a press release emailed from me, he or she will open it.
The last press release I wrote about a downtown revitalization project in Quakertown, Pennsylvania, went to 10 news organizations. The result: It generated five print and online stories, along with a local PBS affiliate video segment.
When a client asks you to write a press release, keep these tips in mind, and your words will generate buzz.
Melinda Rizzo is a 22-year veteran freelance reporter writer based in Quakertown, Pennsylvania.