What makes a good press release?
There are several answers to this question. Some are blindingly obvious, and some less so. But since it would be wrong to make assumptions about people’s knowledge, I’m going to throw them all together in a list, and hope I neither patronise nor baffle anyone.
- Make sure you’re announcing something other people will consider newsworthy. You’ve hit your sales targets? Great! But it’s not going to be of much interest to anyone outside the business, proud of the fact though you may be. Ask yourself this question: can I honestly imagine reading this story in the publication I’m after?
- Make the point of your story obvious. Don’t bury it in preamble. Put it in the headline and first paragraph. Newspapers present news this way, and so should you.
- Make your story relevant. If you’re announcing you’re recruiting another 50 people for your engineering factory floor in Swindon, don’t send it to Accountancy Age or the Post. Accountants won’t be interested, and nor will the people of Bristol. Send it instead to the engineering media and the Wiltshire Gazette & Herald.
- Keep it short. Try to stay under 500 words.
- Make it easy for the recipient:
- Don’t send it as an attachment – paste it into the email instead.
- Don’t make it hard for journalists who want to follow up – give contact phone numbers and email addresses.
- Keep your headlines factual. Don’t be vague, or joke or pun. You need to tell the journalist straight away what this story is.
And here’s another answer to the question: sometimes, a good press release is not a press release at all.
Huh? Well, think of it this way. A press release is not an end in itself, is it? It’s something you write in the hope of getting press coverage. If there’s a better way of achieving that objective, ditch the release and do it that way instead.
For instance, suppose there’s one key media target for you. Everything else would be nice, but XYZ magazine is the killer title. You might jot down the gist of the story and have it in front of you as you call the magazine and sell it in. If they’re not interested, either you’ve saved yourself the hassle of writing the release, or you need to practice your sales patter. But if they are interested – hurrah! Job done. Who needed a press release, anyway?
– Robert Fenner, writer and editor