A key marketing element is a press release, and you must know how to write a press release.
Be well presented, well-written press release plays a major role in convincing media contacts to give you media coverage for your news release. It also provides the essential information editors and staff writers need to cover your announcement in their publications.
A press release has a formal structure governed by well-established writing rules. These guidelines mirror those of the 5 W’s of writing for newspaper reporters: who, what, when, where, and why.
A good press release should read like a brief, well-written newspaper article. It should give the reader the basic information on the news announcement in the first paragraph, then drawing them into the rest of the story with the use of interesting factual statements that fill in the outline created by the lead paragraph.
Like any front page newspaper story, a press release never draws attention to itself, for example, by using the overtly promotional language that belongs in your company sales brochure. Instead, you’re press really serves as a objective platform for conveying the essential facts of your company’s news announcement to the reader as quickly as possible.
Why you may not be responsible for writing press releases in your company, you will need to know how to develop and execute PR programs as a part of your marketing program. To do this, you must be able to specify the essential content that must go into a press release for any company product announcement or news event.
This way, you can supply your digital marketing agency, PR firm, or marketing consultant with the information they need to write a press release that accurately communicates your company’s news announcement. It’s essential to know how to write a press release.
What is a Press Release?
Before you can integrate a press release into a marketing strategy, you need an understanding of what the document includes.
“A press release is a summary of important news related to your company. You’ll essentially write a press release, then send it to several news organizations so they’re aware of what’s happening. If they’re interested, they’ll write about the news in their publications.”
To be more specific, press releases aren’t normally written for page copy. Instead, they catch the attention of the people who do write the news, so they can decide if they want to pursue the lead.
With this in mind, press releases tend to be a lot shorter than regular articles, and focus on facts primarily.
The important takeaways is that press releases aren’t normally written for page copy, their length is shorter than similar articles, and that their focus tends to be on facts, rather than commentary. These are recognized across the board as reasons why press releases are of a particular use.
Turning your company news into a press release
Before outline the information required for your press release, think about how your news announcement will be seen by the editors or writers at the publications receiving your press release.
Think like an editor
Put yourself in the place of an editor or writer for a trade or business publication in your field. Every week, they receive hundreds of press releases from companies just like yours, touting new product announcements, minor and major product upgrades, and other corporate and industry news, both large and small.
Add exciting details about your new product announcement, product upgrade, new joint-venture or other company news event, they can’t all be instantaneously understood by an editor, writer, or reporter at the publication contacted by your digital marketing agency.
To enhance the editors understanding of your news announcement, distill your announcement into a single fact. Facts that are compelling enough for the editor who read your press release to decide to cover your story, and then give the editor the additional facts that they will need to make the story interesting to their readers.
Questions editors ask
When an editor scanned your press release for the first time, they put it through their own mental screening process, asking the following questions:
Your press release has an excellent chance of getting the editor’s attention if you know the hot trends in your field, and if you can credibly link your announcement to one of these trends. It’s essential to know how to write a press release.
For example, if a big issue in your field, like a dramatic increase in foreign manufacturers imports that puts pressure on domestic companies to upgrade their manufacturing efficiencies, leading them to buy systems such as those made by your company, your press really should lead with this issue. Instead of being just another plain Jane new product announcement. However, this linkage must be credible. Editors and writers have fine-tuned BS detectors, and they can always spot a company that is using a trend to push a product that doesn’t belong there.
“________________ handles this. I’ll pass it along to him. One of the primary functions of editors in the publication is to route press releases to the writers who cover certain technologies, business lines, and markets in the industry covered by the publication.
You can save a step here by making sure your press release goes directly to the person that the publication who writes about the area covered by your product. During their follow-up calls or emails to the publication, your PR rep can locate the right person at the publication we should be receiving your press release.”
“Everyone knows that________________. How is what you’re doing any different than this? working for a leading trade publication exposes editors and writers to everything that goes on in their industry–good, bad, and ugly. This exposure often causes editors to form cynical opinions on industry issues and trends, based on the new events they’re already covered up close in the past.”
If a company recently failed in a major market push with a product or technology somewhat similar to yours, the editor may well right off your product announcement in this light. You must anticipate the common objections, both fair and unfair, that editors and writers may have to your news announcement. Get these responses out there when you When writing a press release, and position so they can rationally counteract the prejudices of editors and writers at these publications.
If your press release contains an important single fact, or lead, that passes the editor’s smell test–and especially if you can link your news announcement to a hot trend issue in your field–you’ll put your press release ahead of the many others that land on the editor’s desk or email every day.
[Write a press release] Your press release must answer the big questions
Start the process of sketching out the content and positioning of your press release by answering the important background questions on the news event you’re planning to announce. The answers to these questions will help you and your digital marketing agency or marketing consultant write a better press release. And it helps your PR rep do a better job when they follow up with their media contacts by phone or by email.
Who is your company, where is it located, and what did it just do?
Start with the simplest questions. Briefly describe, in general, what your company does, where its base, email address, phone number, and other important information about your new event. This brief thumbnail description of your company begins to position your company in the editors mind.
“Oildex, of Denver, Colorado, Oildex, the leader in financial automation solutions for the oil and gas industry recently acquired by Drillinginfo, today announced the launch of its comprehensive suite of services designed to help oil and gas operators improve owner support, lower their costs and boost staff productivity…”
“Conga, of Denver, Colorado, an application provider for companies looking to automate and enhance their business productivity through end-to-end Digital Document Transformation, today announced that GearsCRM, a Gold Salesforce Partner and a leading provider of Salesforce consulting and services, has attained certifications for Conga Composer, ActionGrid and Contracts for Salesforce…”
What is the most single important thing about your announcement that readers need to know?
When writing a press release, focus on the single most important fact that readers need to know about your company news announcement. For example, if you’re introducing a new product or service, what is it single most important and unique feature? In what way does your product make a dramatic improvement in some aspect of the potential customers business?
If you’re announcing an upgrade to a product, state the most important aspect about the upgrade. Is it the first time this new feature has been introduced to the market? Is it now available at a lower cost? Is there a no other feature like it available in competing products?
What are the main benefits to readers of your news announcement, and why are these important?
Once you’ve created the news of your announcement, fill in the reasons why this news is important to readers of the publication in your industry. Do not make the common mistake of recycling the sales copy benefits in your company’s product brochure.
When you send your press release, this will make your press release read like marketing copy, and marketing copy cannot be easily re-written into a business news feature.
Describe each of the main benefits of your news announcement in a detached, factual manner. Conforming to this business news writing style makes it easier for writers and editors to adapt your press release to their own publications.
Even if your press release is not picked up for a feature article, producing it and virtually ready to print business news writing style makes it very easy for a writer or editor to lift the text of your press release content and publish it as a smaller piece in the new product news section. Which is often done for news announcements not deemed important enough to become stand-alone news articles.
What is the context of this announcement? How does it fit in with your industry, and your competitors?
Now, put your news announcement in perspective, by positioning it within the context of your industry, and your competition. How beneficial is your product announcement to the industry? Is it substantially better than, or different from, products offered by your competitors, and, from a strategic basis, how does this put your company ahead of your competition? Is it worth it to write a press release?
What you’re looking for is a high-concept statement that will make editor stop and think about how your news announcement fits in with the changes occurring in the industry. As mentioned earlier, if you can link your news announcement to a significant market trend or other industry issue, here’s where you do it.
Understanding how to write a press release is a critical part of the chief marketing officers duty. The CMO may not be writing the press release however it is important that they understand how to structure a well-written press release that will be picked up by media outlets.
Do you have a tip for how to write a press release?