These 11 simple media writing tips will guide you to develop your press release and make it sharper so you stand out and attract the right journalists, editors, writers and bloggers.
1. Refine your marketing goal
Sure, your public relations goal is to get free publicity. But what do you want to happen once you get this free publicity? Do you want to sell more services and products? Want to get more donations?
What do you want people to do once they read or hear your story?
How can they help you achieve your marketing or sales goal?
For example, you want to sell more books and therefore you want to make people search for it online.
2. Pick a market segment
Instead of targeting “everyone”, write your press release so it focuses on one specific service, product or topic. Also make it only speak to 1 to 3 key ideal customer types.
For example, if you’re selling evaporative air con systems, perhaps this month you only want to attract people who are building new homes and who live in hot and humid regions.
So, when you write your press release, only make it speak to potential buyers who fit these criteria.
3. Repurpose your press release for SEO
Once your press release has done its job of getting you free publicity through the outlets that you were aiming for, consider repurposing it (AKA reuse it). You can repurpose it for your website, social media posts and other online outlets that can help attract traffic to your website.
This way, you can spread the word even further by getting your press release to appear in Google search results when other writers search for stories like yours.
To increase the chances of your online press release getting picked up through search engines, use the keywords that people would be researching. Insert these keywords into the online version, including in your headline, the body of your press release and in the boilerplate (the short bio that goes with it).
And be sure to make the keywords appear natural!
4. Research or track trending topics
If you can, find a trending topic that could help your press release grab attention. This will boost exposure sooner instead of forcing journalists to park your story on their “maybe” and “later” lists.
There are many tools you can use to track topics. My favourite free tools are Twitter (hashtags and the various customised sections under the Twitter #Explore sections such as Trends for You and What’s Happening), Google Trends, Google Alerts, BuzzFeed and Reddit.
You can also directly subscribe to or follow your favourite news and magazine websites.
5. Include multimedia files in your pitch
Recent research tell us that journalists want to see more multimedia in PR pitches. What a great idea!
If you can afford to, prepare some multimedia files linked to the story that you’re telling? Then attach or link to them in your press release.
These files could be in different formats including photo, video, audio and infographics. You can attach them to your email, insert links to individual files or provide a Dropbox link to a folder of all the multimedia items.
If you’re not sure whether the recipient accepts attachments, pick up the phone and ask them.
When you don’t have anything, not even a photo, consider adding a line in your press release to invite anyone interested to book a time to interview you and to take photos to go with their coverage.
6. Grab the reader’s attention in the first 5 seconds
Whenever you write for PR, marketing, sales, whatever, always apply a 5-second rule with your subject line and headline. This means you give yourself 5 seconds to grab the reader’s attention. Do the same with your press release.
Next, follow with a strong opening sentence and additional body copy that keep them hooked and interested enough to read the rest of your press release.
Oh, and you’d be surprised how many press releases I receive from people who want me to feature them in my freelance articles yet they don’t explain who they are or why I should care. This information should be upfront in your press release!
Otherwise, I pass! Next expert, please!
7. Keep it simple, yet professional
Before sending off your press release, check the quality of your writing against several newspaper articles from the top papers in your region:
- Does your press release sound simple and professional without sounding spammy or too academic?
- Have you used plain English so that anyone who picks up your press release will understand it?
- Have you used the active voice?
- Have you only used the passive voice when necessary?
- Have you excluded the unnecessary capital letters, exclamation marks, industry jargons, clichés, technical languages and local slangs?
- Have you spelled out acronyms?
- Have you removed unnecessary words?
- Have you broken up your long sentences into shorter ones so the press release isn’t complex?
- Have you checked that all names and position titles are accurate?
- Have you punctuated and formatted your press release correctly like a proper article (using the inverted pyramid and proper quotation styling)?
- And have you ensured your press release and boilerplate don’t sound like a sales pitch or advert?
All the above are super important.
The Australian Government has a list of government-related press releases that I recommend you check for ideas.
8. Don’t use ALL CAPS
Please, pretty please, don’t use capital letters to emphasise important words in your press release. ALL CAPS is you shouting at me. It will make you look like an amateur and unprofessional.
As for your press release title, use sentence case like we do in Australian media:
- Eminem is working on new music
- NSW government encourages holiday home owners to open their doors to bushfire victims
- Perth’s top selling suburbs for 2019 revealed
- Why I’d invest in FTSE 100 stocks like Warren Buffett to retire rich
As you can see in these real examples, we only capitalise where appropriate.
9. Keep it factual and accurate
Whenever you make a claim in your press release, the person covering your story would expect to see evidence of these claims. They also don’t like it when you speculate what others are thinking or feeling, unless you have direct quotes from these people.
So, have you backed yourself?
If reports, stats, photos and original quotes are accessible online, link to them.
If you can’t link, then provide references to the information that the recipient can look up.
If you can, connect the media person with the person making the claim or who experienced what you mention in your press release.
For example, if you raised $100,000 for ABC charity organisation that claims the funds will be used to help sick children, then perhaps add that “John Smith from ABC is available for interviews”.
Check first that John Smith is happy to contribute.
10. Include a strong boilerplate
Your boilerplate, also known as the bio that you include at the end of your press release, is like a summary of brags.
Use it to help briefly explain to the recipient:
- who you are, what you do, why you do it, when you do it, who you do it for
- why you’re different
- where they may have ‘seen’ you
- any educational accomplishments, awards you have received or books you have written that are relevant to the niche being discussed
- any other important information to help the recipient see that they can and should trust you
Plus, your boilerplate would include the link to your website for them to learn more about you.
The thing is many people try to cramp everything in their boilerplates. Don’t do that.
Instead, select only the stuff that are relevant to your press release topic, just like you would only mention the relevant stuff when applying for a job.
Once you have all the information down, edit your boilerplate so it’s light, sweet and enticing.
11. Include your logo
People often ask, “Should I include my logo on my press release?”
I always recommend that they do. Why? Well, press releases are official statements coming from the brand—so why not make it look like official documents?
Your logo also helps us recognise your press releases whenever they come through. This is good especially when you’ve developed a great relationship with us to the point that we look forward to receiving more stories from you.
But what if you’re new-ish and are using a well-established PR agency or copywriter to send your press release? And what if you fear that no one would know who you are? Then I recommend asking the PR agency or copywriter to use their logo instead of or alongside with yours.
They’re acting on your behalf, so it’s definitely OK to do this.
If you follow these 11 tips when writing your press release, I promise you’ll make it stronger and more attractive, which means you’ll help it gain the attention it deserves.