Knowing the best way to approach writing press releases can be a minefield.
Tim Haigh, former Head of Corporate Communications at Reed Elsevier, offers some tips:
1. Is what you have to say interesting?
What you are writing about has to be of interest to journalists or they won’t cover your story. Obvious sales pitches will be ignored.
Your story also has to have some relevance for the people who are going to be reading or hearing about it. For local media, for example, this means finding a local angle. Also, it often helps to include relevant photographs!
3. Is it newsworthy?
News has to be new. There is no point publicising an event or activity that happened weeks ago. You need to talk about what’s happening now or what’s about to happen.
4. Build relationships
Know your target media. Introduce yourself to the journalist most likely to cover your story, but try not to ring him close to deadline as he won’t have time to chat.
5. Be precise
Keep your press release short and to the point and written in the same style as your target media. Summarise the whole story in the first paragraph, ensuring the headline is factual and includes an active verb.
6. Contact details
Include your contact details at the end followed by a short paragraph describing your company – do not include this information in the body of the release.
7. Email etiquette
When emailing the release, send it in the body of the email – don’t send it as an attachment and don’t include logos. Emails with attachments often get bounced back.
8. Follow up
Follow up your release – ring the journalist to check he has it and if he has all the information he needs.
9. Find out what works
If the journalist isn’t interested in your story, ask why – it will be useful learning for next time.
Importantly, you don’t have to rely on third parties to push your news to a wider audience. Why not use channels such as email, social media and professional networking sites to communicate important news and updates to your target audience. If planned and managed well they can be just as, if not more, effective as a press release – PLUS you have greater control in terms of what is published and when.