A journalist sorts through her inbox, and reads your press release out loud to her co-workers. “Oh God. Listen to this first line,” she says, reading on and trailing off with a grin on her face. Her co-workers smile too, and then she closes the release. She has 50 others to get through, and yours didn’t appear to be newsworthy.
Writing an effective press release requires certain skills, and there are dos and don’ts to the process. So, what causes journalists to turn their noses up at a release?
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A press release is not an article. It provides a journalist with the information they need to write an article. That said, the headline of a press release shouldn’t resemble the headline of newspaper, and especially not of a magazine. The headline should speak to the journalist’s beat, be concise, buzzword free, and always include the company name and announcement. A journalist shouldn’t have to work to figure out what a press release is about. The headline should just tell them.
Here’s a poor example: Two Brothers Want To Help You Plan Your Meals.
And a better one: Two Brothers Launch Foodeez, A Machine Learning Powered Nutrition Platform That Plans Your Meals.
If you’re trying to reach a general audience, don’t use industry specific language in your press release. Jargon isn’t likely to impress a journalist, but rather make your announcement confusing. It’s better to use clear language to make a press release more understandable. If you’re targeting an industry vertical, it’s fine to go more in depth- but remember to not clutter it with meaningless buzzwords and jargon.
In a press release, there’s no need to say that your company is the best, smartest, most disruptive new company around. Including adjectives like amazing, life-changing, and miraculous won’t do you much good either–using too many words like these could indicate you don’t really have that much to say. News is meant to be objective. And since a journalist wouldn’t be caught using exaggerated language in his or her copy, you shouldn’t include it in your press release either. It’s best to solely state the facts about your company or product, and let the journalist and reader decide what they think on their own.
A press release should be 500 words or less, and each sentence should have a purpose. It must provide journalists with all the important information–who you are, what you’re doing, and why it’s important–but there’s no need to go beyond that. No one needs to know about how you met your business partner, or exactly how you built your platform’s backend–unless it’s particularly interesting to a wider audience. Include the important information in few words, and if a journalist has additional questions they’ll set up an interview with you.
Quotes are an integral part of a press release. Often, they’re what make a story impactful. But when they’re not up to par, it really puts a damper on things. Quotes that are too long, full of jargon, or include statistics that can’t be backed should be avoided. Ideally, a press release should only include 1-2 quotes that are no longer than three lines. They’re a chance to portray your company’s personality, speak to your company’s mission, and state your expert opinion. Use them to your advantage.
A press release needs to grab a journalist’s attention. But, that’s not done through dramatic language or confusing anecdotes. It’s done through being clear and simple, and by giving a journalist the information they need to create their own story about your company. For a more information on how to write an effective press release, check out PR for Startups: The Art of the Press Release in 7 steps on the Publicize Community Page.
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