Grabbing – and retaining – a publisher’s attention is tough.
As marketers, once we’ve decided something’s newsworthy the hardest part can be persuading the media to get as excited about it as we are.
Getting noticed is paramount and the best way to do this is by writing a killer press release, so here’s how.
WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, WHY AND HOW
You’ve heard it before, but including the who, what, where, when, why and how is crucial.
Not only does this information paint a clear picture of the news you’re sharing; it provides journalists with all the information they need in one place.
The quicker a release can be turned into a story – with as little effort and correspondence with you as possible – the more likely it’ll be published.
This not only encompasses the ‘who’ focus of the story, but who the release is aimed at.
The former could apply to a person, product, event, organisation or response to existing media.
For the latter, consider whether you’re targeting the media, investors, customers or event planners. Whoever it might be, ensure you refine and target your audience accordingly.
Within the ‘what’, the message needs to be clear. What is the most fundamental piece of information for the reader?
Whether it’s product USPs, the person in focus, shocking statistics or data, times or dates; this ‘what’ should appear right at the beginning of your piece.
This could be a physical location or a website.
The most fundamental point is to ensure you direct readers to this information so they don’t have to hunt for it elsewhere.
Timing is critical. Not only should you be including the ‘when’ of the topic – if related to a launch date or specific event – but also consider when’s best to send the release.
Newsworthy content must be distributed when it’s current. A day late and you’re in danger of appearing behind; sometimes a late release is best left unsent.
Event promotion needs to come in advance of the event and product launches must tie in with the date.
Plan your content and release dates well in advance. If your company promote recurring seasonal events or updates, plan a yearly calendar.
There are two main questions to consider here. Why do you want to send the release and why would readers want to know about it?
For the former, ensure whatever you want to achieve from the release – whether it’s media coverage, attendance, sign ups, or sales – is the focus.
For the latter, include quotes where possible to keep the ‘why’ authentic. This makes the piece sound less ‘salesy’ and makes it easier to trust.
Modern releases need to be suitable for an audience who scan content.
Ensure key pieces of information are easy to pick out amongst the paragraphs.
Don’t forget to include your brand’s contact details, as well as any relevant links and information a writer, or reader, might need.
Press releases are designed to cut waffle and allow readers to find all the relevant information they need, fast.
Releases rarely exceed a page in length, so you need to be clear on why you’re writing it before beginning.
Your release should begin with a simple and clear title; so the focus can be determined immediately. This title will make or break a piece, so avoid abstract headings to retain interest.
Perhaps the toughest part is keeping it short – no longer than one line – whilst ensuring it encompasses all key information.
The title is a great place to eradicate unsuitable readers. For example, including a destination will stop those outside the area thinking the article is relevant for them.
The subheading sits below the title and should be a maximum of two lines long. This is designed to support the title but offer more description.
Here’s your opportunity to include any key information that doesn’t fit within the title, such as an organisation’s name.
BODY OF CONTENT
This needs to address all the w’s (and the h). The most important thing here is that you get to the point, quickly.
Use the first paragraph to immediately note everything key and of interest. Do not use your release to gradually build into the story. Your audience will get bored, and stop reading before the punch line.
Use the following paragraphs to expand the main focus and provide additional information to those with a keen interest.
Close the main body with facts and a call to action.
Quotes provide integrity to a piece; giving context whilst adding a human voice.
They are fundamental to a release, as the media will want to include a spokesperson. This also means it’s critical you obtain permission to use the quote.
When quoting, ensure you cite who is saying it and their role within, or connection to, the company in focus.
A boilerplate provides information on the company or brand.
It should be separate to the main body – often with a title like ‘About [company name]’ – and presented at the bottom of the page. It shouldn’t exceed five sentences and if more than one company is the focus, include a boilerplate for each.
Work with key stakeholders to create a standardised template you can include in any future releases.
Where and how you submit the release will depend on your audience, but below are a few suggestions:
Directly to journalists or newspapers.
- Emailed to investors.
- Published on your own website.
- Placed on newswires.
- Emailed to customers.
- Shared on your social channels. Make sure it is relevant to your audience if doing this. If you are a B2C business and the update is of more interest to the B2B sector, don’t share it with your Facebook fans.
OPTIMISING YOUR RELEASE FOR SEARCH
From keywords to links, there are various ways you can optimise your release for additional SEO value.
PICK A FOCUS
Know the phrase you want to be found on and include it within the title, subhead and throughout the content where possible.
Use this focused phrase early but also often – without appearing spammy – and remember to utilise the boilerplate.
Link your key phrases to relevant pages on your website.
Not only does this aid usability for readers, it will increase your chances of optimised links being included in final published articles.
UPLOAD A RELEASE TO ITS OWN PAGE
Once uploaded, optimise the meta title, URL, keywords and meta descriptions.
Share your release – if relevant – on social channels, including any blogs.
Don’t just copy and paste the release; take key insights and reword it with a conversational tone, guiding people back to the original page.
Include your phrases here in the title and body of the blog post too.
WHAT IS NEWS?
News comes in various formats and is subjective, making it tough to determine what journalists might jump on.
Some ideas for newsworthy stories can include:
- Announcements; company updates are often of interest within specialist publications, where people like to know who’s working for whom and when a company is expanding (or downsizing!)
- Events; if you’re speaking somewhere, or hosting an event, announce it.
- Educational information; if you have an insight likely to educate, and be of interest to, the general public or niche within it, frame it to focus on these details.
- Product launches; new products, services or tools are always worth shouting about, just ensure you send the news to people worth targeting.
- Reactions to other news; this is a quick win and means you already have the advantage of knowing the topic is newsworthy. If commenting on something within your sector, be quick off the mark and send a release detailing your opinion asap.
Crafting a release isn’t easy. From information structure, to ensuring relevant content is presented in a succinct way, it takes time and thought.
Before beginning, ensure you understand who you want to target and what the focus of the piece is. Then work on presenting it in the most interesting way to ensure journalists are quick to snap up the news.