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How to Write a Press Release That Attracts Attention

Posted by Wendy Marx

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Would you like to know how to write a press release that gets the attention of major media outlets? Let's look at the top components of a press release strategy, and how you can craft your own with killer results.

Press releases have recently been critiqued as old school and some even go as far as to say that press releases are dead. Unfortunately, the press release seems to be everyone's favorite punching bag. 

Are Press Releases Dead?

Despite how hated it seems to be, B2B public relations people distribute an endless stream of press releases on every possible subject from the launch of the latest gizmo to a new hire to a new survey. What gives?

The problem is not the press release itself. The problem is that many people haven't updated their press release strategy to reflect the modern times we live in. We've seen many press releases that are weighed down with formulaic writing and marketing hype. The result is a bloated and dull release that is much more likely to elicit a yawn than a response.

But, done right, a press release can be much more than a piece of paper. Consider for a moment how many press releases you can find on such distribution sites as PR Newswire, where you can find hundreds of releases on a wide range of subjects every single day. 

Bottom Line: Press releases are far from dead! They are an effective way to tell your story and generate leads.

 

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So let's get right into it: how to write a press release that gets the results you want.

How to Write a Press Release That Any PR Professional Would Envy

1. Start Off with a Captivating Headline

There are few words that are as valuable and important as a press release headline -- and this value comes from its potential to make a lasting impression on the reader. A press release headline should grab the attention of journalists, bloggers, prospects and clients and make them all want to read more.

For starters, use clear action words, and keep it short and simple. No need for a long-winded explanation. This shouldn't be a two-minute process. Invest your time to create a top-quality headline, even if it means coming back to it multiple times before you land on the right one. 

Reflect on this: journalists and bloggers receive dozens (sometimes hundreds) of press releases every day. The right headline puts you in front of the pack. 

Extra Tip: Test alternative headlines on social media to see which packs the biggest wallop.

 

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2. Get to the Point

Again, because journalists and bloggers receive many press releases in a single day, they don't have time to wade through word mazes. Skip the flowery language, jargon and exotic metaphors. Get to the point in the first paragraph. 

Address the 4 Ws -- who, what, when, and where -- within the very first paragraph of your release. If it's a product launch, tell what's being launched, who's doing it, when it's happening and where it will be held. Stick to facts that are usable, not peripheral

3. Be Quotable

Journalists are always looking for the human side to a story, and a quote oftentimes provides just that.

This quote should be from an executive within your company -- someone with authority that engages readers. The level of person you choose to quote shows the importance you assign to this announcement.

A good quote will give journalists and their readers some context. It will engage the audience and create a story that draws them in. For example, how is your announcement going to affect the industry and people in it? 

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4. Pay Attention to Length

One of the first things people ask is, "How long should a press release be?" The answer, of course varies from one situation to another. But the number one rule of thumb for press release length is to be concise. 

Paying attention to length can help you to eliminate fluff and get to the point quicker .Reports show that journalists spend an average of 5 seconds reading a press release before they decide whether to use it or trash it. Think about what you want themt to see in that window of time.

As we said, the appropriate length will vary from one situation to another. A good rule of thumb  however, is around 400 words, or a page or less.

5. Give Them Background

After your first paragraph, delve into more detail about the announcement. Is there a creative route your company took while creating its product? Any inspiration you pulled from? 

Again, just as we discussed in our last point, you still want to be concise. Only give details that are relevant to the release or strengthen your narrative. Walk a careful line between key background information and excess.

Avoid being self-promotional. More than anything, this will turn off your audience. Answer the question, "Why should people care?" Connect your company to a larger issue and show how it relates to your customers.

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6. Skip the Jargon

Your press release is not a technical paper, and it should not read like one. More times than not, industry jargon will lose journalists and their audience. To ensure that your press release fits the bill, read it to a close friend or family member who knows little to nothing about your industry. If you get quizzical or glazed-over looks, return to the drawing board until you have a release that anybody can read and understand.

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7. Include Visuals

Visuals are an integral part of the modern press release. If you want to bump up your success rate, include images and even video. A study from Cision reported that press releases that include images receive 1.4X more views than those that don't -- and that figure goes up to 2.8X when a press release includes video.

How can you integrate multimedia into your press release? Include an image of your spokesperson, your product (if it's a product launch), or another image that ties into your announcement. You could use video to highlight new product features or offer a tutorial. 

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8. Leverage Data Effectively

Facts are important to any press release. Back up your story with real-world data that shows why your news is important. This could be statistics that show the need for your product or service -- for example, "88% of clients say that they struggle with this one issue in their software."

Break up your data with bulleted lists. This makes your information easy-to-digest and more acessible than huge blocks of text. It also draws the journalist's eye to the important points that they will need to reference in the story.

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9. Wrap It Up with a CTA

Don't forget that your press release is also a valuable way to generate leads. The secret to that is including a compelling call-to-action in a release.

This can be anything from registering for an event to downloading an ebook, or getting something for free. In return for the freebie, be sure to require a person to fill out a brief form. You will be surprised at how many people will do just that.

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To make it easy for you, we've created a Press Release Template with the key ingredients you need to score a press release win.

Download Your Free Press Release Template Here

 

An Example of a Press Release That Uses PR Best Practices

Here is an example of an actual press release that we created for Aspiring Minds to promote a launch of their employability assessment platform.

We've noted areas in which we applied the points mentioned above so that you can see how these points come together to create a top-quality press release.

 

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Press Release Example.jpg

Key Points to Remember...

  • The press release is still a vital component of public relations best practices
  • Write a catchy headline that grabs the reader's attention right away
  • Get to the point quickly in the first paragraph, and answer all the necessary W questions right away.
  • Use a quote key player in your company to humanize your release and show how it connects to a bigger picture

So next time you're ready to dismiss issuing a press release, think twice. Done right, it can help take your B2B public relations for your company from a nobody to a somebody.

How to Go From Anonymity to Industry Icon

 

[Image from Flickr user carterse]

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Feb 6, 2014
 
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Wendy Marx

Wendy Marx is the founder and president of Marx Communications, a boutique inbound marketing and public relations agency. An award-winning B2B public relations pro, she has helped many small- & medium-sized firms (SMBs) become well-known industry brands and transform their businesses, going from Anonymity to Industry Icon™.

Her business articles have appeared in The New York Times, InformationWeek, Inc., Advertising Age, & Fast Company, among other outlets. 

View all posts by Wendy Marx