12 Nov What makes a great press release?
All press releases are not created equal, and if you want your business to stand a chance of standing out to busy journalists there are a few simple rules to follow.
The story & the reader
You’d like to see your business in the press but have you got a newsworthy story? Perhaps you’re struggling to come up with ideas in the first instance, or you have an idea but don’t know if it’s got legs.
The following offers a handy checklist.
Take time to think about which publications you’re aiming for, and which sections. Is it a news story for your local paper; the travel pages of the national newspapers; Wedding magazines? Thinking about the end reader and where the story fits within a title will help shape the press release and keep it focused.
The press release headline is key
Journalists are inundated with emails, and if you’re taking the time to come up with a news story and write about it, you don’t want it to fall at the first hurdle. Think of the headline as your email subject and keep it simple. Clever puns are all well and good but you need the recipient to have a clear idea of what the news is.
Hook them in
The opening paragraph needs to capture the essence of the story. You can go on to elaborate on the where and when of the story in the second and third paragraphs, but the first sentence or two is your ‘executive summary’; or your 140 Twitter characters. What information can’t the story do without?
Ideally the name of your business will appear high up in the release. Don’t go into lots of background detail explaining who you are and what you do (see below about Notes to Editor), but if you can insert a one or two word description such as ‘market leader’, ‘Devon-based’ (especially for the local press) or ‘independently owned’, then great.
How long should a press release be?
There’s no hard and fast rule but I’d aim for one to two pages (using 1.5 line spacing) max. Additional details such as background information on your business or the awards organiser can always fit into a ‘Notes to Editor’ section at the end. It’s good practice to create a short ‘boilerplate’ description about your business that you can insert at the end of all of your releases, particularly if you’re trying to build awareness about your brand.
Contact for more information
Lastly, be sure to include a phone number and email address at the end of the release so that journalists know where to come for more information. If there are images available you can say so here. If relevant, say who’s available for further comment.
Sent to the right person, in the right format
If your release meets all of the above criteria then the final hurdle is making sure you send it to the right person, in the right format. Take time to think who the most appropriate contact is, whether it’s the news editor or the cruise reporter. If it’s destined for a weekly title, there’s no use in sending it on a Friday afternoon when the magazine appears in print on a Saturday.
When it comes to sending photos with a press release, I tend to only send one or two around 1MB if they really help to illustrate the story. Don’t send a 14MB photo of your hotel if the release is about the chef winning an award. The more attachments you send, the bigger they are, the higher risk you have of your email going into a spam folder. You can always include a note at the bottom of the release to the effect that high res photos are available on request.
Don’t bother sending photos to broadcast contacts. They won’t print them. (There is an exception to every rule, and if your story is about a competition to find the funniest wildlife photo then attaching an image is advantageous.)
Not convinced press releases work? This story in The Mirror for St Helena Tourism proves otherwise.