Even if you intend to hire an outside service to write your press release, it is still very useful to know the basics of how to write one yourself. The exercise of thinking through how you want to make your news announcement will help you achieve your business objectives through public relations. The following offers some ideas on how to write a press release.
Writing a Good Press Release
Writing an announcement for the news media (that’s the fancy way to describe writing a press release) does not have to be a herculean effort or a cause of stress. It can even be fun. There are a couple of things to know before you start that will make the whole process a lot easier:
- Understand what a release is, and what it isn’t – a press release is an announcement of news. Always remember that the word “New” is in “News.” You have to have something new to announce. This could be a new product, a sale, a strategic alliance, a funding round – something that no one has heard of before.
- It’s a document that announces your news factually, but with some intrigue and suspense. It’s not a brochure. It’s not a news article. It’s the raw material for someone else’s news article. It needs to present your news in response to the (unasked but ever-present) journalist questions of “Who, what, when, why, and where?” – and do so in a way that makes the journalist want to write about it.
- You need a “News hook” – the hook is the idea that makes your news interesting to reporters and the general, media-consuming public. So, for example, your news might be “We have a new product.” That, unfortunately, is not interesting, even if your product is super cool. The hook might be “New product helps consumers save 50% on electric bills.” That’s a hook. This will trigger interest from reporters who write about energy and consumer finance. They will write about your product because it makes their column more interesting. It’s all about them, not you. This is the tension in public relations that many people have trouble grasping. The media is in the business of engaging with audiences in order to sell advertising. They do not care about your news unless it helps them with their business. You have to give them a hook that will help them bring eyeballs to their media properties.
- Understand the writing process. The process starts with you and your organization. The best practice is to develop a consensus internally about what you are announcing before you start writing. This will reduce rewrite cycles and arguments. It’s a great idea to make sure your announcement aligns with other marketing and business objectives. For example, ensure that the way you message a new product matches the messaging used by the marketing team. If they are saying the product saves consumers on their electric bills, then it won’t be effective, in business terms, to advocate for the product as a “green” environmental product.
- Know your approvals and legal issues. Who has to approve your press release internally? Is it the CEO? The answer to this question may depend on the announcement. If it’s a merger, then for sure the CEO has to approve it. If it’s an announcement about a change in office hours, then the CEO may not need to see it. Legally, press releases can be viewed as official statements of company policy or opinion. As a result, it’s a very idea to run a press release draft past an attorney. Or, at the very least, be familiar with what you can and can’t say. For instance, if you’re a public company, your shareholders can and will take anything you say in a press release very seriously – to the point where They might sue you for making what they consider to be a misleading statement. In this context, there’s a big difference between saying “Revenue outlook is good for the year” vs. “Revenue will hit $10 million this fiscal year.” The latter statement is a factual assertion, a prediction than can be proved or disproved… watch out… And, even if you don’t get sued, you still might be made to look like a liar in the press if you make a false statement in an announcement. That’s not good PR.
Press Release Writing Tips
- Use a professional tone. Avoid hype and overly promotional language. In fact, the more understated you are, the more effective you’ll be. This is a good venue for humblebragging.
- Be colorful in your executive quote. This is your chance to be unusual and provocative, to show some personality.
- Include the hook in the headline and sub-head, but avoid being overly promotional… this is not easy but it’s the essence of good PR.