How to Write a Press Release

Crafting a Press Release: Six Steps to Keep in Mind

By Andrew Woodcock, TVG Account Executive

The backbone to being a good PR pro is being a good writer. I’ve heard it countless times: if you don’t know how to write, you won’t be hired by a PR firm.

And it makes sense: writing is a huge part of communication in general. Hiring a bad writer in a PR agency would be like hiring a bad cook in a restaurant. That’s why many interviews at PR agencies are usually accompanied by a writing exercise. More often than not, before or after the actual interview you’ll be required to write up a mock press release.

Check out the following steps I learned early in my career to help your press release make it to the front page!

Remember: It’s news, not an ad

Before you get started writing, keep this in mind: no journalist is going to use your press release if it sounds too much like a product promotion or company ad. People are bombarded with advertisements regularly, so anything that comes across too much as a sales pitch is going to be ignored.

Start with your headline. If it sounds too much like a billboard or advertisement, it’s time to do some revisions. Keep this in mind as you write.

Get to the point quickly

It’s 2017, and people’s attention spans are getting shorter by the day. Your readers’ time and attention are precious, so it is important to get as much information into as little space as possible. Put all of your whos, whats, wheres, whens and whys in the first paragraph (or even the first sentence if you can). Write concisely and accurately, being mindful of unnecessary information and errors such as run-on sentences.

Leave the fluff for English class

I’ll admit that I struggled with this step myself when I wrote my first few press releases at my first internship. As a political science student, I was used to writing long-winded sentences filled with flowery language in order to increase the page count of my research papers. That kind of writing will get thrown in the trash in a newsroom.

Your readers are neither college professors nor William Shakespeare. Keep your press release free of fluff or jargon that the average reader would find difficult to understand. Simple and clean is the way to go.

Have your quotes come from a human, not a robot

Quotes are quite possibly the most important part of a press release; they bring emotion and a human element to the text. Unfortunately, quotes are also the easiest part of the press release to mess up, and for the exact same reason – they rarely sound like sentences a human would ever say.

Rather than using quotes to continue to provide information, create quotes that bring depth and insight to your press release.

Check your work

Your press release is written. Great!  But before you send it out, always have your work checked and double-checked by your peers so there are no typos, grammar errors or misinformation. Once everything is checked, you’re finally ready to send it out.

Get creative with the pitch

The final step is the most fun: pitching. While not directly a part of the press release, the pitch note in an email is just as important to get your release published, as all of the other steps. Think of it as an extra headline, grabbing the news desk’s attention and interest in reading what you’ve submitted.

When writing the subject line in your pitch email, for instance, you should find the happy balance between attention-grabbing and information-providing. Don’t be afraid to try something unorthodox, as long as it’s relevant and professional. I once worked a Star Wars quote into a pitch note – it tied back to my press release nicely, and it was definitely attention-grabbing.

Now that you’ve written and pitched a great release, may the press be with you!


Need help writing your next press release? The Vandiver Group can help! Call TVG at 314-991-4641 and check us out on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.

Think Typos Don’t Matter? Think Again.

Think Typos Don’t Matter? Think Again.

By Laura Vandiver, TVG Vice President of Research and Strategic Insight

I overheard a conversation the other day while working out at the gym. A woman I had seen there before – let’s call her Cindy – was telling someone about how she works in PR. Cindy was annoyed that her client called her, upset, because her name was misspelled in an article in the local business journal. “I have to tell people all the time that this is PR, not ER.” Cindy mused. “It’s not my emergency! A typo is not that big of a deal.” Oh, but it is Cindy.

Accuracy is extremely important in our field. Not only do we have to manage our clients’ reputations in the media, we also have to make sure the facts are correct and that we’re telling their story in a meaningful and impactful way. A single error could mean a devastating blow to a corporate reputation, and gives fodder to the rumor mill. And yes, typos matter. Especially when it’s your client’s name! Typos in your media releases indicate sloppy work. You always need to proofread your work before you submit it. Yes, an occasional error can happen – we are only human after all. But I’m talking about the errors that occur from just not caring very much about the ramifications of these seemingly small mistakes. You have to care. Our clients depend on us to care. And they deserve to have the highest quality work at all times.

How can you avoid these kinds of errors? Here are a few simple tips:

  1. Have a team of people who proofread documents before they go out the door. The more sets of eyes you have on that important release for a client, the better.
  2. Always use the spellcheck and grammar tools in your word processing program as another layer of protection.
  3. Sometimes it helps to print your document and read it on paper to catch errors. Computer screens make our eyes tired and less able to find simple errors.
  4. Try reading your document out loud. This can help you find errors in verb tense, especially, and it will help you decide if you are conveying the message you mean to convey.

Accuracy matters. Our clients depend on us to get it right. And when they look good, we know we’ve done the best job we can possibly do for them. It’s kind of a big deal!


TVG’s PR Pros are happy to help you proof-read and edit your documents! Call us at 314-991-4641, email us or drop us a line on Facebook.

The Reality of Crisis Communications

The Reality of Crisis Communications

By Andy Likes, TVG Senior Vice President

In light of the recent events in the media, we wanted to share this piece written last year by our crisis communications and reputation management pro, Andy Likes.

Not “If,” but “When”

Throughout my 20+ years in broadcast journalism and public relations, I’ve seen my share of crisis issues. They happen every single day. I tell my crisis communications training classes that it’s not a matter of “if” a crisis happens, but “when.” Whether you are part of a small non-profit organization or a major multi-national corporation, you are vulnerable. It could be an employee issue, a cyber-attack, lawsuit, natural disaster or any other number of things, but it’s only a matter of time before your reputation is on the line for one reason or another. The biggest issue in a crisis is time!

We have clients come to The Vandiver Group in one of three phases of a crisis; pre-event, mid-event, and post-event. The clients who come to us before a crisis happens are being proactive. They want us to help write a plan, create messages, and draft template press releases before things go bump in the night. They may or may not see a crisis on the horizon, but they know anything can happen. Other clients call us mid-crisis, or after the crisis is over, for reputation management and overall communications to mitigate the damage.

Proactive Crisis Planning

Implementing a crisis plan before a crisis occurs can save you three things: time, money, and frustration.  Planning ahead saves you time. It’s easier to write a plan and use it as your guidebook when bad things happen, rather than “wing it” and address things as they occur. Planning takes preparation and time, but it’s a fraction of the time you could spend on a crisis when you’re in the middle of it. Having a succinct, understandable plan that is easy to find can also be the key to rebuilding your reputation after the crisis is over.

Having the right messages that are timely and well-delivered helps build trust with employees, the media and the public, no matter what the issue may be. Holding information back because you don’t know everything may seem easy, but it’s not the best way to handle a crisis. Give all the information you have at the time and say you’ll be back with more when you have it. It’s like ripping off a bandage – it might hurt initially, but the quicker you respond, the quicker the crisis will be over. Ultimately you want to get from the crisis to the post-event stage, so you can rebuild your reputation as quickly as possible.  That all begins with the crisis plan and having your team ready for anything.


TVG has helped companies in all three stages of a crisis for more than 20 years. Are you ready to tackle a potential crisis? How can TVG help you? Tweet us @VandiverGroup or email info@vandivergroup.com for more information.

The Importance of Media Literacy in the Age of “Fake News”

The Importance of Media Literacy in the Age of “Fake News”

By Donna Vandiver, TVG President & CEO and Laura Vandiver, TVG VP of Research & Strategic Insight

Long before there was “fake news”, there was disinformation, propaganda and censorship. Many Americans are able to evaluate and decide if something they are reading is real or not. But many also have difficulty discerning “fake” news from actual, factual information. This is especially so when false stories can be shared in an instant across the globe via social media channels. Read more

8 Tips for Strategic Pitching

8 Tips for Strategic Pitching

By Donna Vandiver, President & CEO

What you learned in Scouts is true – it’s best to be prepared. At TVG, when we teach staffers to pitch reporters, we talk about a number of things to make a pitch memorable and get the story picked up. Here are 8 of our best pitching tips:

1. Make it personal

If you were sending a note to a friend, you would know something about them. It’s no different with reporters. Know their beat, what they write about, and mention a piece they’ve done if you’ve read it and can say something relevant about it. Connecting to a reporter on a personal level will make your pitch stick out.

2. Do your homework

Gather good information and put it together in a compelling way. Think/Act like a reporter. What would you want to know? What would grab you? What’s grabbed you in the past?

3. Do your media research!

Keep your media contact list up-to-date. People move around. There is nothing worse than getting a bounce back, because the reporter has moved on. Make sure all of your contacts are current and accurate before sending your pitch.

4. Proofread!

Spell their name correctly. Don’t you automatically delete an email if your name is spelled wrong?

5. Get to the point

Don’t send an email asking if you can send them a pitch. This is like asking if you can ask a question. Don’t waste their time and yours with two emails, when one would do.

6. Maintain contact

Everyone’s busy. If they don’t respond, follow up within a few days. After that, it’s like starting over.

7. Say no to clickbait

Make sure your subject line matches the topic. There’s nothing wrong with being creative, but be sure you stay on message and on point.

8. Practice makes perfect!

Don’t be easily discouraged, and don’t take it personally if a reporter doesn’t like your idea. Get better at packaging your ideas. Accept the challenge.

What are your best tips for pitching reporters? Tweet us @VandiverGroup, and let us know!

BLOG

 

Why is Corporate Reputation So Important?

Corporate Reputation

By Donna Vandiver, President & CEO

At TVG we do a lot of crisis communications work, so we are constantly assessing the damage a crisis can do to a client’s reputation and image. Read more

Finding Solutions to Violent Crime in St. Louis

Help Reduce Violent Crime in St. Louis

By Donna Vandiver, President & CEO

TVG employees had a day of community service this year on Martin Luther King Day. Over the past several years, TVG has worked closely with the St. Louis Initiative to Reduce Violence (SIRV) to donate our time and services. Read more