As a copywriter, you might be asked to write a press release for a client.
You might ask, how is that different from marketing copy?
If like I use to, you work client side in a marketing department, you’ll probably have heard bods in PR talking about how a marketeer just couldn’t write a press release.
Well, I’m going to let you into a secret.
If you can write well and have a few braincells, you can adapt your style to write a killer press release.
Tips to writing a press release that will get attention
A newsworthy story.
This is the absolute starting point and where PR and marketing differ greatly. In marketing, you can revamp something that isn’t particularly new or exciting, and with a new creative treatment, give it more of a chance to stand out. If you try to do that in a press release, it’ll flop. Don’t try to promote a product or service simply because it’s not selling. It needs to have a newsworthy angle.
Ask yourself, is there anything new, what’s different or unusual about the story, who would it interest, and would anyone actually care? If the answer is no, wait until you have a story that is.
A killer headline.
As with any writing, headlines that grab attention are critical. The headline of a press release will help journalists sift through the many emails they get each day. Write one that says exactly what the copy is about rather than trying to be too clever or cryptic. A good headline will help the reader determine if it’s worth opening.
For example, ‘The great outdoors’ is ambiguous, whereas ‘Warwickshire countryside wins award for best country walks’.
Say the important bits first.
Your first sentence or content block needs to grab attention. You need to say the most important bit of your story right at the beginning in around 15-20 words. This is the copy that sums your entire story up in 1-2 sentences.
Listen to the intro of a news piece or read a newspaper headline to see how the writer gets as many of the 5 W’s in (who, what, when, where, why).
Stick to one story and be concise.
Don’t try to shoehorn multiple angles into one press release. Concentrate on the important story and don’t waffle. The ideal length should be no more than one side of A4 or around 400 words. Make sure that you have covered off the who, what, when, where, why of the article.
Try to stick any supporting background about your company or story in the ‘notes to editors section’.
Include important quotes
A quote that says that an CEO is ‘delighted’ isn’t useful. Include quotes that add insight and interest, such as information not already stated in the release, explaining a benefit, or adding a statistic to support the claim. Don’t state the obvious.
Adding an opinion can also be a good quote to add.
Write in the third person.
Remember that you are pitching to an editor, not the end user. So always refer to the company rather than ‘we’ – writing it from your company or client’s perspective.
Always make sure you use the third person throughout. Check and check it again before you send it!
And finally, when you have the components of your press release, review your structure against the tried and tested format of the Inverted Pyramid.
- A clear headline
- Main facts: Say the important bits first
- More detail: Put in context and say why it’s important
- Quote: Add credibility or opinion.
- More detail: Explain the quote e.g. who’s involved, why etc.
- Additional quote: If relevant and adds insight.
- Closing paragraph: Give additional information not already provided, or give a summary to create a lasting impression.
- Notes to editors: Include background information etc.