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3 Tips For Writing A Better Press Release

By May 1, 2013June 28th, 2015Writing & Content Marketing
3 Tips For Writing A Better Press Release

Sending out a press release is cheap and relatively easy. That’s one reason why everyone does it.

Some press release services certainly have more credibility than others, and many are free. For about $100, you can use some of the higher end services to reach many of the most prominent news outlets and journalists.

Professionals who are more serious about distributing press releases know that a good one will be picked up by media outlets, shared via social media and boost your search ranking. But the ultimate goal is to generate actual coverage of the news you’re sharing. That’s the “press” in “press release.”

If you want to be noticed among the thousands of press releases that are distributed, discarded and deleted each day, you need to approach them differently than you may have five short years ago.

When writing a press release, break away from the stodgy old model built before people and businesses started communicating constantly through social media and mobile devices. Grab people’s attention, speak their language, and tell a story to prove why your press release is newsworthy – and worthy of their time and attention.

Grab Them and Don’t Let Go

It all starts with the headline. That’s what people see first on news wires and email subject lines. It’s also the first thing seen by search engines, so include your most important keywords in your headline whenever possible.

Your press release headline has one single function – to get people to keep reading. It should clearly and concisely (100 characters) convey why the reader – and the reader’s readers – should care about the news you’re sharing.

Forget why you think it’s important. Why will readers think it’s important?

After your headline, your summary statement enables you to provide slightly more supporting information to further entice people to – you guessed it – continue reading the body of your release. One simple sentence is all you need.

Studies have shown that headlines and summaries with numbers, used to cite specific facts or statistics, convey immediacy and perform very well. Another way to convey immediacy and newsworthiness is using the word “new.” Not rocket science, right?

Finally, reinforce your headline with a powerful photo or graphic. Strong photos and headlines were the lifeblood of newspapers and magazines long before they became the driving force behind social media. Use them to grab people’s attention.

No Starch in Underwear Required

Effective website content, blogs, brochures, newsletters and other marketing and public relations pieces have a conversational tone, using real language that speaks the language of that company’s target audience.

What I don’t understand is the metamorphosis that happens when the same company distributes a press release. Suddenly, the goal is to sound like a financial earnings report, with long-winded, confusing sentences that you have to read twice to comprehend, and quotes that nobody on the face of the earth would actually say in conversation or even a prepared statement.

Quite frankly, when I read most press releases, I get the feeling that the writer had extra heavy starch in his or her underwear.

I understand the desire to sound professional in any type of communication, and a press release shouldn’t be quite as casual as a blog. But you can sound professional without completely abandoning the tone and personality that you’re known for.

That’s the tone and personality your clients know and like. And that’s the tone and personality you want media outlets to convey in their coverage.

Speak the language of your audience. Don’t change who you are and how you communicate just because it’s a press release.

Spin Your Story

I’ve written previously that content writing needs a little less Einstein and a little more Oprah. That applies to press releases, too.

This is an extension of what I was just talking about. Instead of treating your press release like an announcement of news, treat it like a news story. Sure, you need relevant, timely information to make a press release newsworthy, but it’s the story that makes it interesting.

Your release will be read, liked, shared, promoted and written about by real people, whether they’re C-suite executives, stay-at-home moms, trade publication reporters or blue collar sports fans. So instead of trying to appease search algorithms or trying to use big words, write for real people.

Get the keywords in your headline. Lead with the news. But do it in a way that shows why your news is important to the reader. Make me care.

When you use quotes in press release, make it sound like someone might actually say it. Make it personal instead of reciting the company handbook, and quote clients whenever possible. Let them help you tell your story instead of quoting the same folks in upper management.

Remember, if you say something about your business, it’s a claim. If someone else says it, it’s a fact. And it’s like having a testimonial in your press release, which gives it more credibility.

What are you doing to get your press releases noticed?

Join the discussion 14 Comments

  • Donna Merrill says:

    Great advice Scott,

    Especially for get what we think is important, rather think of what people think is important. Here we need to “answer the question” or solve a problem folks may have.

    Yes, that headline needs to be an eye-catcher. Something that will entice people to read on! That to me is the most difficult part. When working on project like this, I write so many headlines down and play with words until I come up with something.

    I find that writing a Press Release is harder than any article or blog post because it takes a lot of thought to put together as few words as possible for the headline. Then being professional with a twist of personality is another kind of writing style. Love that title “No Starch In Underwear Required” Thanks Scott, Donna


    • Scott_McKelvey says:

      Hi Donna – Yes, the headline can be the most challenging part. I usually write one headline, whether it’s a press release or something else, and then rewrite it after I write the body content. Glad you like the “starch” line. It’s painfully true – probably for the writer and the reader!

  • Annie Sisk says:

    I so needed this today! I don’t do many press releases but an opportunity just arose. Great advice, Scott.

    • Scott_McKelvey says:

      Hi Annie – Glad I was able to fill a need! Good luck with your press releases, and I hope this post will be helpful.

  • Hi Scott,

    Great post! I’m not quite yet to the point of writing press releases, but I am bookmarking this for future reference.

    • Scott_McKelvey says:

      Hi George – I apply the same principles to press releases that I do to any other type of content – focus on the needs of your audience and convey why your news is important to them. Use that as a foundation and you’ll be in pretty good shape. Good luck when you take the plunge into press releases!

  • SandyMcD says:

    Hi Scott, great reading and I loved the tweetable lines in your post. Beyond an organisation who has a new product or something like that, could you give an example of what might constitute great news from a solopreneur? I haven’t used them before just because I could never quite figure out what was newsworthy.

    • Scott_McKelvey says:

      Hi Sandy – Wow, that’s a tough one because every business has different audiences, goals, products and services. As a solopreneur myself, I’ve never distributed a press release on behalf of my own business because what might be relevant or important to me – a new website, a new Facebook page, a new partnership – probably isn’t relevant to many other people.

      You raise a great point – if you’re not sure whether or not it’s newsworthy, don’t send a press release. Smaller news can be communicated through social media and email these days, and it can be hyper-targeted to the right audience.

      One idea – if you partner with a non-profit to do some pro bono work, a press release can be the launching pad for a human interest story for both you and the non-profit. Everybody wins.

  • Hey Scott, how do you set up the little tweet buttons by your quotables? Is this part of Click to Tweet that I’ve yet to discover? Thanks.

    • Hi Louise, I figured I’d jump in since I installed the plugin… it’s called “tweetherder” and it adds a button to your editor so when you highlight certain text it adds the tweet shortcode around it. One of the nice things about it is that you can edit the text for the tweet without editing the original (so you can truncate it for the actual tweet if necessary without altering your text).

    • Scott_McKelvey says:

      Yes, exactly what Carol Lynn said 🙂

  • Hi Scott,

    I’ve written a post recently about press releases which post, Carol, actually promoted here, but I really enjoyed yours.

    I agree we shouldn’t be to rigid even when writing press releases. As you mentioned it’s better if we don’t use as cool of a tone as we use on a blog, but we still need to write for humans and sound like one.

    Thanks, I really enjoyed this.

    • Scott_McKelvey says:

      Hi Sylviane – Thanks, I’ll have to find your post! Isn’t it amazing that we always come back to writing for real people, regardless of what kind of content we’re talking about?