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!