A press release should end up as a news story, right? So how about writing it like a news story? Here’s how to get yourself in the press without annoying journalists.
Write a press release like a news story
1 Tell them a story
Tell it like you’d tell your grandma, or your mate over pint or a coffee. Use simple language, spell out the story and get to the point.
2 Sum it up in the intro
This is the nub of the whole story in a sentence which answers as many of these six questions as possible: who, why, what, when, where, how. This way you won’t waste the reader’s (or the journalist’s) time.
3 Break it down, then bring it to life with real quotes
Follow up the intro with 3-5 sentences which elaborate on the nub, then bring the story to life with quotes. Every good story has dialogue, and that includes news stories and feature articles, but make sure they are ‘real’ quotes from real people, not banal marketing prattle, full of sterile, corporate phrases.
4 Don’t ham it up
Only make a claim like ‘the UK’s leading…’ if you can back it up succinctly with some facts and a good, independent source. Good journalists will question everything. And if they don’t have time to call you to check, they may just bin it.
5 Keep it simple, stupid
Avoid corporate, technical or industry-specific jargon (and marketing speak), unless it’s relevant to the target readership. For example, local newspapers are all about local people, so laymen’s terms are essential. If you have to use jargon, then spell out what it means. Journalists have to explain and qualify everything in their copy, or it won’t get past the news editor.
6 Ditch the headline (but include an email pitch)
Don’t worry about crafting a clever newspaper headline, as these are created by subeditors depending on the layout of the page. But in order to tell the reporter and news editor what you are sending them, make sure you include a region, subject or time-sensitive tag in the email subject field, and a paragraph explaining why they should print it.
7 Don’t forget the pictures (of people)
Stories supplied with good quality pictures get the most coverage, meaning the reader is more likely to remember you. If you provide images, supply a portrait and landscape version of every shot (for layout options). Some papers still have a picture budget, but increasingly less and less, so get snapping. And, remember, stories are about people, so no product shots (unless it’s relevant to the readership).
8 Just call
If all else fails, call the paper and ask who is the right person to send the story to. They may just take all the info down on the phone there and then, which saves everybody a whole heap of bother, and gets your story published.
9 Get a journalist-turned copywriter to create one for you
These days, reporters’ time is at a premium, so giving them something they can turn around in minutes makes it more likely to be published. I know what journalists want from a press release (well-written, relevant news stories they can just drop into the paper or magazine in a few minutes).
Lend me your ear
Not sure if you have a story? Lend me your ears and I’ll tell you whether you have something the media will publish. If it’s not likely to see the light of the printing press, I’ll tell you not to bother. Instead, I’ll show you how to get your message out there in another way. Go on, what have you got to lose?
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