By Emma Speirs
Director at Ballyhoo PR
A press release published by a newspaper, magazine or website can secure your company some priceless coverage – but it’s not done by luck.
In the current media climate of plummeting advertising revenues and circulation figures, many publications – especially local newspapers – have been making swathes of redundancies. Journalists and editors are therefore over-stretched and don’t have time to read your press release diligently before turning it around into a story suitable for them.
You have to give them the complete story – in the style they want it – straight away, making it easy for them to lift your release into their pages rather than file it in the bin. Here are some tips that can help you convince an editor from your opening paragraph that your release is worthy of publication…
1. Read – Start by reading the newspaper, magazine or website you’d like to be published in and check out the style of writing, the tone of voice, the length of stories/articles they publish and the different sections they organise their content into. Use this as a ‘template’ to fit your piece into. When the editor starts reading your release and immediately recognises that the style and format is consistent with their own title, they’ll warm to it and read on.
2. The Five W’s – Always include the five Ws (who, what, where, when, why,) in the first 25 words (usually the opening paragraph). This will neatly encapsulate the salient details and grab the editor’s interest.
3. Visualise the pyramid – Imagine the structure of the paragraphs that follow as an inverted pyramid, so you put the most crucial information (the heart of the story) at the top and taper down in descending order of importance. This holds the attention of an editor and helps them if they need to cut a story for space, as they can just delete from the bottom up. Speaking as someone who was a magazine editor in a previous life, it can feel like such a waste of time when you scroll down to the second page of a ‘press release’ and still can’t see what the news angle is. Most editors won’t even bother giving it that long – so hit them hard and hit them early!
4. Quote – Provide a strong quote from a relevant spokesperson that adds to the story and supports a point already made. Usually this summarises how a company or brand is feeling about the news you are putting out, e.g. “we are delighted to have won this award/merged with XX company/raised XX for charity”. Try and make it as passionate and colourful as possible, but within proportion to what the story is about. Many rookie writers make the mistake of using the quote as a place to cram in new information or statistics – you put all that in the body of a release. A quote is there to humanise your story or support your findings without claiming they are facts – e.g ‘we have always delivered the best in customer service’ – this is fine as a quote attributed to someone but is not a fact. You cannot quantify or prove that your customer service is the best there is!
5. Keep it concise – Editors love copy that is concise, so if possible keep your press release down to one A4 page. Not only is it easier to read, it also shows the editor that you’ve already done the ‘editing’ for them! If your release is too long, look at removing adjectives and any ‘empty’ words that don’t take anything away from the story. Likewise, if your release copy doesn’t fill a whole page, don’t feel the need to pad it out. Sometimes 200 words is all you need.
6. Proofread – When finished, do a thorough read-through, checking for any typos, missing words (easier than you’d think) or grammatical errors – a misplaced comma can be enough to turn an editor off your work. Ask a colleague to proofread it for you as well – two pairs of eyes are always better than one.
7. Consider outsourcing – If in doubt, outsource. One professionally crafted press release is more valuable than three or four hashed together ones hoping for the best. The whole aim of issuing a press release is to grab the attention of an editor and, in turn, the reader. If you’re not sure you have the time or skills to transform your company’s news into a fully-formed press release that’s spot on in terms of style, tone, language and format, then look for help. As part of our range of services at Ballyhoo PR, we can write one-off press releases for businesses. Get in touch at email@example.com if you’d like to find out more.