Writing a press release was one of the first things I learned how to do in college. I had just declared my major, a dual study in public relations and marketing, and our professor told us this was the most important thing we would learn in the introductory course. At the time, I didn’t believe her. And it wasn’t until I had to write press release after press release for my current fellowship at Castle that I understood the importance of them. A press release is a good test of your writing skills, how quickly and concisely you can tell a story without losing the most important details, and the ability to still hold the attention of the reporter or editor reading it.
The following is a list of the five best practices and tips I’ve learned about writing a press release at Castle.
1. Who is your audience?
Before you begin writing your release, you must know the audience you’re trying to reach. Odds are, you’re sending your release to reporters or editors of a newspaper. Formatting the release in a straightforward, article-ready way makes a reporter more likely to read your release.
2. The headline must be eye-catching.
A reporter won’t consider opening an email if it doesn’t grab their attention. The sub-header can provide a little more detail, but the headline should always get to the heart of the story.
3. Get to the point.
Summarize the most important information in the first paragraph; like who, what, when, where, and why. The body of the release will go into detail about what the release is about in the subsequent paragraphs.
4. Include at least one quote.
Having a quote is one of the most important things about a press release. Especially if they are from one or two key figures from the organization or event. Quotes add a human element to the release, emphasize the importance of what you’re talking about and paint a picture of what to expect from the event.
5. Keep to one or two pages.
Press releases are meant to be short pieces of information about a company or organization. So, if a reporter wants to cover it, they have enough space and material to publish their own story and go deeper into it.
One last step for press release success…
After all of this is done and the press release has been sent out, I learned that following-up is just as important as sending the initial email. Calling the reporters and editors a few days later and asking if they are interested in the story is a step I never learned about in school. Oftentimes, I’ve learned that many reporters just didn’t see the email in their inbox, and almost always ask me to resend it so they can read it. Just this one step gives a much higher chance of the story being read and published.