Press releases – some journalists love them and some hate them. Nevertheless, they are necessary and there’s definitely a certain formula to adhere to with plenty of do’s and don’ts to remember if you want to engage your target journalist.
In many cases, PR’s and journalists work together in perfect harmony. A PR needs a channel to shout about their content or product and a journalist needs to fill airtime on their channel, whether that’s a website, magazine or newspaper.
The issue these days lies in the level of press releases and requests that journalists receive on a day to day basis. It’s no surprise that they don’t have time to sift through masses of information and they definitely don’t have time to read irrelevant content.
So how does a PR deliver the perfect, straightforward and simple press release? First off, cut the nonsense. A journalist will want to immediately understand what your story is about from reading the first few lines and if they don’t, they’ll move on to the next thing in their inbox. Your first paragraph should always summarise the story, with the details following on in the main body of the press release.
For example, if your press release is about your company winning an industry award, your first line might read:
‘Local digital marketing experts ASSISTED. win national ‘Best UK Agency’ title for 100th time in the Digital Marketing Awards 2018.’
Journalists also love facts and stats – those bitesize nuggets of key information that get to the point without all the waffle. They jump out of the page to grab the reader’s attention in a quick and easy way, making for a streamlined and punchy story, so the more of these you can use to backup your story, the better. Try and be up front with your stats and include them early on and in your first few lines if you can. If not, at least try and ‘bold’ them out to get the journalist’s attention.
A couple more basics to always include are of course, relevant high-resolution JPEGs to illustrate the press release and, if relevant, a quote or two from key people. It also goes without saying that stories need to be innovative and genuinely interesting.
As mentioned before, journalists are inundated with press releases and information, so what you are sending across needs to be engaging enough to keep them from closing your email and moving on.
Try and find an interesting angle, such as a key fact or statistic, or relate your story to something topical i.e. any big headlines in the news, events such as the Royal Wedding, heatwaves or elections. It gives your story an edge and will be more attractive to journalists on the hunt for interesting, relevant content.
To catch their attention, you’ll need a good title for your press release and a good email subject line. It differs from journalist to journalist, but many will say that you don’t always need a matter-of-fact title for your press release.
Remember, all the important information is going to be in your first few lines, so you can have a bit of fun with your title. Try and find something unique and catchy, perhaps with a play on words or a bit of humour thrown in, whilst still capturing the essence of your press release.
As for the email subject line, try and address the journalist by name to immediately make the communication more personal, and ask them a question. Think, ‘Did you know…’, ‘Have you ever…’, ‘Would you like to…’. Keep that personal feel going throughout your email body too, relating your story back to their content to highlight it being a good fit for them. Try and include some personal details about the journalist if you can.
Twitter and Instagram are your best friends here. Ask them how their recent holiday was, complement their dog that they like posting photos of, or maybe you live in the same area and you could recommend a good bar or restaurant. Do what you can to make them feel like a person and not just a website/blog. Don’t worry – they won’t be freaked out that you ‘stalked’ them, they will appreciate that you took the time to ‘research’ them.
I’m sure most journalists will agree that they are either lazy or busy. They like their life to be made easy for them. Do the work for them and write your press release as though it is going straight into the paper (particularly handy for journalists on a deadline!)
Good luck and happy press release writing!