Pulling together the perfect press release is the first step in engaging journalists and generating buzz on radio, TV or in print. But what does this mythic beast look like? How can you be sure that your press release is going to grab a journalist’s attention? Here are some basic steps to follow.
1. Grab Them Early
A press release, just like an article in the newspaper, sets the tone with a good headline. You want your press release to stand out, to be compelling, so you have to spend some time coming up with a short and snappy headline that’ll do the job. And don’t neglect the subject field in the email either. A first impression may be the only shot you’ll get.
2. Don’t Bury your Lede
Put your news up front, in the first sentence. You may not have heard of the “inverted pyramid” but it’s a simple enough concept – the big idea goes first and then, as you work through the release, supporting details are added in descending order of importance. Remember, journalists are busy people who get swamped with releases every day. Give your news its best chance at being read by putting it at the top.
3. Keep it Short
Those busy reporters have jammed schedules and deadlines that quite literally chase them all day, every day. If your release is longer than a page, it’s not going to get read. It’ll get filed – under “trash.”
4. Provide Quotations and Art
Think like a journalist – make their jobs easier. In your release provide some of the colour that can only come with solid quotes from the right people. Save the canned stuff, go for something that sounds human and relatable, something the average citizen can understand and would find appealing. Don’t forget some art! If you can provide something graphic – a photo, a chart, some statistics in a colourful graph – you will make your reporter very happy.
5. Choose a Spokesperson
Who is your spokesperson, how will he or she be contacted? You would not believe how many people forget to include contact details at the bottom of the release. It doesn’t matter how good your release is if no one can get a hold of you. Include the name, title, company name, phone numbers – office and mobile – and email of the person best suited to speak to news staff. Do your homework on this one – if your spokesperson is very very clever but sounds like Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory, you’re not going to be happy with your article. You want someone who is sanctioned by the company to speak on their behalf in an enthusiastic and engaging way. If they give good sound bites and can take technical or complicated material and make it easy to understand, you have a winner.
6. Flawless Spelling and Grammar
Need we say more on this point? Remember, you don’t need to add artistic flourishes, you don’t need to be Hemingway. You do need to follow a few simple guidelines to help give your press release the best possible chance of being seen by someone who can give it the profile you’re after.
And one final note: journalists are professionals. Once your press release is in their hands it’s out of yours. If you try to manage the story beyond what’s reasonable or if you haven’t done proper preparation, you will most definitely have a less-than-positive experience. Handled deftly and with professionalism, a journalist is a great ally. Here at Tenato we’ve had a lot of experience and a number of our associates have come from that world. If you’ve got questions or if we can help you pull together a press release or an entire media strategy, get in touch! We’d love to hear from you.