Selling someone on an idea or product begins with a good press release. Creating a good press release starts with including the most important information first and making sure you are communicating in a manner that is accurate and immediately tells someone what they need to know.
A press release is the first step in contacting the media about an event or product. But it is not enough to make sure your information gets to its intended recipients. It goes without saying that every media outlet will be interested in your message, but assuring your press release jumps out from the pack is essential.
Successful press releases have to be brief, to the point, and make important information easy to find or risk losing priority to other releases.
Creating an effective press release begins with a headline that will immediately grab the attention of newspaper editors and television producers. The media receives hundreds of press releases daily, and in larger markets that number probably reaches into the thousands. Because of this, it is important to offer a headline that is to the point and tells recipients at a glance specifically what the release is about.
It is also important not to use headlines that are cutesy or sensational, much less misleading. The headline of a press release should draw recipients in like a newspaper story does, rather than trying to amuse or shock them.
Once you’ve decided on an attention grabbing headline that will make recipients want to put all others aside to read yours first, comes the task of writing the body of the press release. The first rule involves keeping your release simple and to the point. Pertinent information should be included in the first paragraph, rather than buried several paragraphs down.
The second rule involves the tools you will need in adhering to the first rule. Journalists are taught to remember the “5Ws” in writing a story: who, what, where, when, and why. The same holds true for a press release. For public relations practitioners, the “5Ws” represent the pertinent information that should be included in the first paragraph:
- Who is speaking if you’re publicizing a candidate, event, or news from an organization?
- What issue(s) will be addressed?
- Where is the press conference being held? With attention given to the location’s address, how to get there, and specifically where in a building or other location the press conference is being conducted.
- When is the press conference being held? With both the day of the week along with the calendar date referenced, in addition to the time.
- Why. Just as the headline should grab its recipient’s attention, the opening paragraph should include brief information about why your release is important.
Along with putting the “5Ws” in the first paragraph, it doesn’t hurt to highlight or underline information about the date, time, and location. An added advantage comes with repeating the “5Ws” at the end of the press release as a way of reiterating the most important information.
Press releases should be kept to one page if possible. Of course that may not always be possible because of the information you are sharing, but additional information can be included as an attachment when sending it by email (thus offering busy media personnel a chance to view more lengthy information at their leisure).
A press release should also include information about how to contact the organization for questions that may arise but cannot be addressed in the release such as:
- How can information be obtained if a particular media outlet has to miss your press conference?
- Are there experts to address the issue you are announcing?
- How can the media obtain a copy of a study you may be publicizing?
Finally, it goes without saying that close attention should be given to details. Like a newspaper article that contains inaccurate information, a press release that is not properly reviewed can lead to disaster. If a press conference is scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 8, it is important to make sure the day of the week and calendar date coincide, unless you want to risk the chance of one or more media outlets showing up on the wrong day. The same holds true for making sure telephone numbers, addresses, and the spelling of individual’s names, etc., are correct. And it goes without saying that correct spelling and grammar are a given.
You’re in charge here. The first step in making sure your story gets told accurately begins with sharing your information in a manner that will make the media excited about covering your news.