Working at a digital PR agency you will find your writing skills are definitely put to the test. Working on all kinds of different clients in different sectors, you will need to get clued up fast on the niche industry lingo and be able to speak to a whole range of audiences. It can be daunting when you first start off, but you’ll quickly learn how to master the art of becoming a literary chameleon.
To help you get into the swing of writing brilliant press releases, here are 7 amazing tips to turn you into a release writing whiz!
Drop the descriptive
You may find yourself tempted to use adjectives in every line, as we’re all taught in school that these words add excitement, but do try to fight this temptation. The subject you’re writing about should be enough for journalists to decide whether the story or campaign is something they might be interested in.
Adding words like ‘wonderful’ or ‘brilliant’ can end up in your release sounding like an advert, which can put journalists off.
Most journalists are often also put off by adjectives like ‘leading’ and ‘unique’ because they will hear these words ALL THE TIME. Your client may have something that actually is unique but the proof is in the hard information, not the flowery description. As I mentioned previously, the product or service should speak for itself.
Also avoid making the release itself pretty or branded. Journalists will appreciate just receiving the copy more than they will a beautifully crafted PDF adorned with company logos – again, this smacks of advertorial.
The headline is possibly the most important part of your release, just beating the summary which should come immediately afterwards. It is the first (and often only) thing journalists will see and remember, first impressions count. A headline should be as interesting as possible while also staying short enough to use in a tweet.
Make sure your main, most newsworthy point is descripted in the headline - but avoid mentioning your client by name. This will completely turn journalists off for being too promotional!
Keep it short
Journalists and editors will receive possibly hundreds of press releases a day so if you’re writing pages upon pages about your client, the chances are that journalists just will not have the time to read through it.
Ideally a release should equal a page to a page and a half in a word document. If you do have a lot of information to fit into one release, bullet points can be used as a summary.
Get to the point
The summary paragraph is the second most important part of your release, just following the headline, as it could be the only part that gets read.
With this in mind it’s imperative that you detail the story in brief, ideally not exceeding 100 words. In this introductory paragraph you want to cover the main selling points of your story in a punchy fashion; remember your desired effect is to help the journalists understand the story within the 15 seconds they’ll have to scan your email.
We also recommend that you avoid mentioning your clients name straight away. This might seem strange but you need to lead with the story – not the company.
Keep your quotes relevant
Quotes are a must for any press release but it is very important to keep the quote on subject.
The quote should be from your client or an expert in the field that you are writing about. They will give the release some perspective and further insight to the profession, event or product.
It is easy to accidentally include a quote that comes off incredibly self-promotional, though, so ensure when you read over it that it actually seems to be coming from a genuine place and doesn’t just read like an ad.
Another great tip is to make sure, once your release has been sent out, that the professional which you have quoted is available to speak to journalists should they need them. You don’t want to miss out on any potential coverage. This is especially true when it comes to broadcast stories, but it can apply to online and print too.
Include some background
To help journalists understand your client, ensure you include a boilerplate, also known as a background paragraph.
The best boiler plates are short, simple and to the point; again any descriptive words such as ‘unique’ or ‘leading’ need to be avoided.
You also do not need to list all your achievements in the small excerpt. For example if your client was a gaming research company based in Birmingham you could even just include the following:
“GameResearchLab.org is a gaming research company that was founded in Birmingham in 1992. They research the habits and interests of gamers across the UK.”
Do some research
You’re the expert on PR; the client is the expert in their chosen field. Do some research before you put pen to paper and make sure you ask all you can, so your knowledge is on point. The audience will likely know more than you do, particularly when it comes to niche subjects and B2B topics, so you may need to brush up in order to speak to them in their own language.
It’s also worth researching the publications that you are looking to target, so that you can best position the release to suit them. They may like to include case studies, a number of different comments per story or a bullet point summary. All of these, and more, you can tailor your release to in order to make it a more attractive offering.