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How to Write a Press Release

 

When you veer off course, or decide to take the scenic route, your digital map app automatically redirects you. And thus is life. We don't all have to follow the same route. We do, however, need to drive on the road if we want to avoid calling our friends and family for bail money!

Likewise is the life of a PR pro. We are presented with rules, guidelines, templates and processes. All are well and good, but the most talented know how to let structure guide without swallowing the creativity that brings great benefits to your businesses and clients.

Ensure your press releases get play by considering the following best practices:

HEADLINE

What separates a mediocre headline from one that readers can’t resist? Language that creates a strong first impression. Here are three tips:

1. Cut to the chase
Clear headlines that give readers the meat of the release win clicks. Before crafting your headline, identify the most compelling detail of your message. Draft a few headlines and combine the strongest parts from each.

Example: IVF New Jersey Fertility Center Honors Military Personnel and Veterans with Substantial Discount


2. Introduce yourself
Fifty-six percent of mobile searches have local intent and 78 percent of those lead to purchases. A local business should include its city, relevant keywords and name in headlines. Don’t force it, though.

Example: Beltsville’s Craft Beer Superstore Old Line Fine Wine and Bistro Offering Monday Discounts

3. Merge facts and current events
If you have surprising news, frame it as such. A headline that talks about debunking a current trend catches readers’ attention. Especially “grabby” headlines contain a compelling stat that readers can relate to.

Example: 3,800 Agriculture Jobs Posted on AgricultureCrossing, Amidst Government Shutdown
 

SUBHEAD

A well-crafted subhead can expand upon the headline just enough to encourage the reader to keep reading.

Example: Some of City’s Hottest Restaurants Compete to Create Gen Y Drink
 

LEAD PARAGRAPH

Great lead paragraphs garner attention and encourage readers, especially bloggers and reporters, to want more. Think like a reporter. You're busy. You want something that attracts your audience and feels new and different. This makes it easier to craft a meaningful paragraph!

BODY COPY

The pyramid below is a template approach that is rigid but for good reason. Here’s why:

The top of the pyramid is the most important copy. If the blogger or reporter stops reading after the
headline, they at least have the news. (If it was well written.) If reading stops after the lead
paragraph, the journalist has gleaned a bit more. And so on. When a release
starts with the details of the announcement at the top, it is more
difficult for the reader to process. The reader
gets confused and your release
could be
abandoned.

LENGTH

There is no hard and fast rule on length. However, look at the length of printed magazine articles. Once upon a time, articles spanned many pages, but now we largely see single-page stories.

Busy readers want to consume, enjoy and move on. The target of your release is a journalist. Journalists need to assess whether the information in releases align with their readers’ interests or needs as quickly as possible.

QUOTES

Quotes give releases a personal voice and add visual texture. Can they be difficult to attain and get approved? Absolutely! Try to get quotes - especially from clients - because journalists often place them directly into a story without even contacting you.

Make sure your quotes aren’t too business-like. Write them how a person speaks. Follow a template for quotes too closely and the press release runs the risk of blending in with other lifeless releases.

Look at the following examples and determine how you can make your quotes more authentic.

Good – "The ASE professionals at Abe changed my brakes in less than 45 minutes," said Susan Johnson.

Better – "Abe truly had my family's safety in mind," Susan Johnson shared. "I felt he really shared every important detail of my brake replacement work with me."

BOILERPLATE

Boilerplates are essential, but it sometimes makes more sense to include a call to action first. If the release is compelling enough to get the reader to the end, shouldn't we give them something to remember?

Here are five ways to end a press release and augment your (short) boiler:

  1. Ask the reader to take a survey.
  2. Include a mini-infographic that can be picked up by anyone and placed on their site with a link back to yours.
  3. Ask the reader to pose a question. Provide a link to your blog where their question can be posted. (Just be sure to answer.)
  4. Ask your reader to choose between your product or service and a clearly unwanted alternative.
  5. Thank the reader for their time.

What press release templates or best practices do you find valuable, and which have you tweaked to make your release work better?

Join the conversation by giving us your ideas on what formatting tips you use for your press releases in the comments section below.

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