If you’re like most people, your eyes cross as soon as you see the words “press release.” Even if you can tolerate the phrase, you probably don’t make it much past the first paragraph of the typical press release.
That’s not your fault. Nor is it the fault of the medium itself. Press releases aren’t inherently bad. It’s just that most people don’t know how to write them.
If your job or income depends on gaining positive publicity, you should know how to do better. You should know how to craft — or help others craft — truly excellent press releases that recipients actually want to read, that actually inform, and that change minds.
It is possible. Follow these seven steps to make it happen.
1. Include a Summary Above the Lede
Grab readers’ attention right away with a quick summary above the dateline and lede. Just a few sentences, bulleted or not; the idea is to tell people who’ve clicked through exactly what they can expect from the next 300 or 500 or (hopefully not) 1,000 words.
This press release about a financial education startup is a good example. The summary is just a couple sentences long, but it’s enough to set the stage and convince readers to keep going.
2. Find a Newsworthy Angle
The fresher, the better. The topic should be relevant and immediate to your audience — something they’d search for in a news app that speaks to their concerns. Press releases generally don’t show up in Google News or Apple News, but newslike releases still tend to perform better in the short term. A news hook also makes the email pitch easier (if that’s part of your strategy).
3. Include a Show-Stopping Quote
There’s a fine line between legitimate hype and hucksterism. While staying on the “hype” side of that divide, make sure your quotes are compelling, the kind that make readers pause and reread to make sure they have it right.
Your first show-stopping quote should appear high up in the release, as early as the second paragraph. Sprinkle additional short quotes throughout the piece so everyone who uses the release doesn’t regurgitate the same exact statement — ensuring variety in any media products that come out of the effort.
4. Link to Quoted Leaders’ Bios
Most people don’t think of press releases as interactive, but there’s no reason they can’t serve as useful resources. One easy way to make your press release more interactive (and helpful) is to link to quoted leaders’ bios or LinkedIn profiles or even flattering news profiles. Readers want to know who they’re hearing from, and providing this information upfront may reduce the amount of back-and-forth that’s necessary with people writing up the story.
5. Include Quoted Leaders’ Contact Information
No, it’s not necessary to include their direct line in the release. You can use a dedicated corporate inquiries email, for example. But the primary contact certainly shouldn’t be a PR representative. You show you’re serious about telling your unvarnished story when you allow people to go straight to the source.
6. Follow News Writing Conventions
Your press release should follow the basic conventions of news writing, with some modifications.
It definitely needs a compelling lede that grabs readers right away. It needs an informative nut graph that sets up the stakes and answers the who-what-where-why. It needs relevant quotes and, as it wears on, more detail and background to put everything in context. And, perhaps most importantly, it should be informative without including any fluff or irrelevant information.
7. End With Summary Takeaways
End where you began, with a few sentences of summary material after the last body paragraph.
Don’t simply repeat the top summary. Readers won’t like that and it’s probably bad for SEO anyway. Instead, rhyme: Say what you said up there in a slightly different way, or take the opportunity to emphasize different points from the piece.
Take Pride in Your Press Releases
Most press releases read like they were dashed off in five minutes. That the writer slapped them together in between actual work and immediately forgot about the whole thing.
Much of the time, that’s probably how things actually went. Again, it’s not that press releases themselves are bad; it’s just that most people don’t know how to write them, and even the ones who do probably don’t care.
Be different. Be bold. Craft press releases that you can be proud of — and watch as the people you’re trying to reach respond in kind.