Press releases for business – do they really work?
How to write a press release that really works and what to avoid
Marketing is a strange and varied beast and comes in many forms and guises. One of the more misunderstood forms is the humble press release.
What makes it attractive is the idea that simply writing a press release to promote a product will solve all your publicity problems. After all, it’s cheap, it’s direct and it puts you in contact with that mysterious creature: the media.
Even if you need help writing a press release, it’s likely that it will still cost you a great deal less than producing a full blown marketing campaign. But is a press release going to work? Is it the panacea you’re looking for?
Well look, let’s start by talking about what the press release does and doesn’t do. When I worked as a Communications Manager in a local authority I was phoned up every day by colleagues keen to get their news to the local and national press. They had a BRAND NEW piece of software that would be able to calibrate the residual velocity of… I have no idea, I’d fallen asleep by that point as well. So that’s point one: your press release needs to be a story. A really good, interesting story. News is a story; it is not just a collection of random facts. Sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind and tell yourself, or your colleague, that this just will not cut it as a press release and a strategy re-think is in order.
Point two is similar. If you can’t make your random collection of facts into a story, then neither will a journalist. The plot needs to be there in the first headline. Only the most dedicated of reporters will plough through a release looking for an angle. It’s dead before it even hits the reporter’s inbox. So in summary: STORY.
Third point to make is that of audience. Writing a press release is more than just publicity, if done properly it will speak directly to your audience. So, it kind of begs the question of who is your audience? Forget the ‘spray and pray’ method liberally peppering social and print media with your name. If you want to see real results from a press release, you must send it to the places where your audiences hang out. If not you run the risk of damaging your brand and wasting your efforts on entirely the wrong customer, which will prevent you from focusing your time and efforts on new or existing clients. With a little research you should be able to figure out the reading habits of your key demographic and produce a targeted, well-written press release that speaks just their language.
Now, without doing myself out a job here, there are some things you can do to write a press release that works. Similarly there are some things to avoid. Let’s get down to the basics.
A very good place to start
Headline writing: look it’s a skill. But it’s one that you can develop. If you’re struggling to write something attention grabbing then start by writing down ten keywords that describe your story. From there, choose the most INTERESTING point and work it out from there. Free tip, statistics are generally not the most interesting part of your story. This is an example of what I mean:
Giant Pharma Company Spends £2.3 Million On New Vaccine
Thousands Of Children’s Lives To Be Saved Thanks To A Brand New Vaccine Launched Today
It’s pretty obvious which tells the story isn’t it? Big numbers are impressive but it’s the stories behind the numbers that make you want to read on. Why does the disease target the young? What are the symptoms? Where and what is this disease? It makes you want to read the story.
Which brings us to the next piece of the puzzle, that all-important lead paragraph. It acts as the story equivalent of a meta description on Google:
0116 402 0290
Visit Our Official Site For All Your Plumbing & Bathroom Requirements. Up To 55% Off. Order Now. Fast Delivery. Exciting Prices. 8900+ Likes. Excellent Customer Service. Cheap Prices. 36000 Products. Designer Range. Fast Delivery. Types: Bathrooms, Towel Rails, Showers, Taps, Furniture.
A bit like that, it gives you the lowdown on what you’re getting, an executive summary and story bait all in one.
This is probably why this is the most important part of the release. The rest follows very logically from this short par, but get this wrong and no one’s reading anything.
Using our vaccination example, what would make you read on, something like this perhaps?
“A killer disease that ends the lives of thousands of children every year will soon be eradicated thanks to a breakthrough vaccine snapped up by pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline.”
“More than 20,000 children will be saved from killer tuberculosis as a brand new vaccine is rolled out by pharma company GlaxoSmithKline.”
The first one has difficulties. All it really adds is the name of the company involved in the story. Your following paragraph is going to have to work harder than it should to take the story forward.
However, the second version gives you a bit more including the proper figure, the name of the disease AND the company involved.
From here on in, it’s just a matter of telling the story and here are the golden rules we got from journalism school: remember the five Ws and the H. Yes, that’s what, when, why, where, who and how. Tell the story and make each paragraph count.
Quotes: just a short note on these. By all means include them in your press release but don’t add anything just for the sake of it. Two points to remember: the quote should express something of the speaker’s emotion and impart a new fact or piece of information.
Finally let’s talk about the why. Why do you need to produce a press release? The main reason I suspect is because you simply want to raise some brand awareness. If that’s the case, then a press release is a cost effective and useful tool for just that.
Great news with a great story behind it is well worth sharing. Talk to me today about your press release needs and let’s get your story told.