Press Release Writing Tips
You’ve found some time in your busy schedule to squeeze in writing your press releases, because you’ve heard how valuable these can be in having your business be found on search engines and help with your website’s ranking in results.
Math is nothing like writing, but we’re going to take a few minutes to calculate approximately how much time it will take to write a press release. We suggest, if you’re committed to writing press releases on your own, if you do a good job with writing your first press release, while the creative content of each future press release will change, the framework will be a fill-in-the-blank operation.
Coming up with ideas for a press release – if you have one already, there’s no time allocated in your schedule here. If you don’t, you could spend an hour or two – or more – figuring out what the purpose of your press release will be. (Can you really afford the time it takes to brainstorm ideas for press releases?)
Once you’ve narrowed down your ideas to one, you can get started with putting together the framework of the press release.
What’s the biggest hurdle you’ll have to overcome when writing press releases? For people who don’t know you – and your capabilities and offerings, you will have to answer questions you think readers would want the answers to.
While you think credibility won’t be an issue – you’re already known in your market and you might have an established client base, over time, you’ll still need to extend your business into unfamiliar territory to gain new clients, because of natural attrition – people move, change jobs and careers – over time.
How do you overcome credibility and establish yourself as a professional or a reliable company? While sometimes it takes time, often it’s rather like going to an interview – you need to be dressed for the occasion, in words.
Well-written press releases picked up by the media almost instantly hold water – they build credibility for your business simply by being a message presented through a third-party with instant name recognition.
Writing press releases with the purpose of building credibility is vastly different than traditional advertising which presents a message which is either treated somewhat skeptically or discounted completely as self-promotion. The value of the third-party is independence in reviewing and restating a message, having already performed some basic fact-checking; people trust reviewers, columnists, reporters and broadcasters because more often than not, they are perceived as experts by the very nature of their jobs. For those that know it, journalists adhere to a code of ethics. In the same way that you form an opinion based on what is presented to you visually, media professionals are no different. If you write a press release and present it professionally, you’ll be perceived as a professional.
How long will it take you to be viewed as a credible source? This varies from client to client. Sending a single press release and thinking this will be the solution for questions about your credibility is far from realistic.
Have you already done your keyword research so you know which keywords you’ll be trying to incorporate into the content of your press release? If not, add two or three hours here.
You’ll begin thinking about and writing a few variations of your press release headline. Maybe this will run a half hour or an hour. Too lengthy and some search engines and e-mail systems will reject your press release outright.
An instant credibility detractor (aside from making it difficult to find your press release on search engines) – leaving out your company name. Boost your credibility with every press release you submit by including it; in fact, our news wire will reject press releases without this element outright. (Other non-news wires really don’t have editorial standards or adhere to the Associated Press stylebook; you can put whatever you want in the headline in many cases and still have your news releases issued.)
When you reference outside sources in your press releases, you’re demonstrating to the reading audience that you are fully informed about the subject you’re writing about. Your writing becomes associated with the trustworthiness and authority of the references you cite.
Press release writing that incorporates outside sources shows that your opinions are based on a deeper insider’s understanding and that there are others who agree with your ideas. There isn’t much that speaks louder than experts who support your position and hard evidence.
While readers might be distracted by entertaining creative handling of a subject, to gain a reputation for skill and talent in an area, you must include information that shows you’ve done your research and studied your subject – that you know the facts and the background, and these provide the foundation you stand on.
Do you have the ability to reference more than a single source, to create a stronger position? It certainly provides lots of material for people to research on their own, to form their own conclusions – and determine whether you are a credible source.
You may find statements from authorities in your industry that you can quote or paraphrase, in that case associating with or “coat-tailing” on the knowledge of experts and including it in your press release.
Because facts and statistics can be verified independently by your readers, this type of content is often the strongest element in your press release.
Once you’ve written a few sample press release headlines, you can begin to think about the message you want to convey in your press release. There are countless ways to do that. While you want to be creative and distinguish your business, you walk a fine line with what’s considered acceptable press release writing and creative writing.
While there are no rules about how to write a press release, it is widely understood that you must answer questions right away – who, what, when, where and why. How you choose to answer these questions is where you can take a little liberty in presenting the information.
Remember that your press release is not an advertisement. Whatever method you choose to share your story, leave out the grandiose words that make you cringe – leading-edge or cutting-edge, revolutionary, or other overly opinionate descriptive adjectives that make you the best in the industry – unless you are a Fortune company with name recognition, chances are there is room to grow and you’ll gain no ground with a savvy reader.
Like any other piece you’ve ever written, you need a focal point – a purpose for sharing the information. Without a lot of deep explanation into the “inverted pyramid,” what you need to understand is that you must approach your story from the readers’ perspective: what do they want to know – not what do you want to tell them?
Write your press release in the third person – that means eliminate the word “you” or “our” from your vocabulary – unless it’s contained within a quote. Speak in rather generic terms: “The Mill Company” rather than “my company,” and “customers/clients.”
The expression, “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should,” is particularly applicable in press releases. Just because someone says your release should not be more than 400 words or should be 1,000 words, doesn’t make it true. Your press release should be as short or as long as it needs to be, as long as it includes relevant details and supporting information.
A quote from you about how “excited” you are “about this groundbreaking partnership” does not a relevant detail make. That the partnership will create 20 new jobs in the community does. Specificity – especially when you can identify what you’re impacting in your community – pays in spades.
In general, the opening paragraph provides the focus; the second, supporting detail, and the third might be used for bullet points, as a creative option that doesn’t detract from the content and offers an at-a-glance view of your content.
While traditional press release writers might cringe, there’s no disputing the fact that journalists are busy people, and when you make it easy for them to understand your message more quickly, you’ll earn points in their book.
Short, snappy paragraphs are the text of the day; don’t write press releases that contain hundreds of words per sentence, or use sophisticated vocabulary unless that is the audience you’re appealing to.
You might choose to add in a paragraph at the end that describes your business, referred to as a boilerplate, because it is text you compose that you use again and again. There is no rule about the length of this content. If you view a few press release samples, you’ll see that some mention the year the business was founded, identify the location of the company headquarters (and any branch offices), brands, mission or description of the company’s products and services.
By all means: include complete and accurate contact information on your press releases. How painful it would be – and it does happen – that you discover after all your hard work, your phone number is off by a digit?
Do you really want to assemble the resources a writer uses as reference materials when writing? A dictionary, thesaurus, style guides, books on grammar and punctuation – a library? Even the most seasoned experts will use the tools of their trade – at minimum, regularly – to keep their skills sharp. That’s aside from the time spent rewriting and revising content – even the most knowledgeable will edit content a few times before ending up with final copy.
Some press release writing services claim to write a quality press release in 15 minutes or for less than $30 – but high quality? Is it a cookie-cutter press release? How much original content is created? Does it include all the research and review needed to know your company – to do the right job in presenting the right content?
Should you find you’re still stumped where to start (more than three hours later), you might find it’s a better use of your time to hire one of our expert press release writers to deliver a powerful punch with your press releases.