Having worked in a PR agency for a few months now I am starting to get pretty used to writing press releases. If you work in Public Relations the chances are you find yourself writing copy for press releases every day, it probably comes automatically to you! But what really makes for the perfect press release? This week I’m going back to basics and taking a look at the do’s and don’ts when writing for the press.
1. Engaging Headlines
The headline is the first part of your release a journalist will read and it might be the only part they read if it isn’t punchy enough. In general, headlines shouldn’t be more that a line long but should briefly summarize what the story is about. A good headline should grab the attention of a journalist but not give everything away, an element of intrigue must be maintained to encourage the recipient to read on.
2. Keep it Simple
It can be tempting to try and wow journalists with long, complex sentences and sophisticated, colourful language. However, this rarely makes for easy reading and can often make a release confusing and waffley, which may result in it being overlooked. Far better to write clearly, concisely and effectively. Much like the headline, you want the rest of your release to grab the attention of a busy journalist and convince them that your story is worth printing. Keep it simple and avoid jargon!
3. Know Your Audience
The role of a PR Executive is no longer just to write copy for newspapers and you must bare that in mind when writing a release. There is not a ‘one size fits all’ for press releases and it is important to consider who you are writing for when drafting a press release. For example, the style of release a trade journal is looking for is very different to that of a consumer magazine or social media post. Always have in the forefront of your mind who your target audience is and write accordingly.
4. Interesting Quotes
It is standard practice to include a quote from a relevant individual in a press release, and this, if used well, can really help to strengthen your copy. However, it is very easy to become lazy with quotes and resort to writing run of the mill, insincere waffle that will convince no one. Spend time shaping your quotes, try to make them interesting and thought provoking for the reader. If a quote adds nothing to the story then what is the point of it being there?
5. Spelling and Grammar
You work in PR, of course your spelling and grammar skills are good! But we are only human and even the best of us make mistakes and typos. It is important to take a step back from a release and check that there are no silly mistakes that you may be overlooking before you issue it. A great way to pick up on errors is by printing it and annotating a hard copy, alternatively you could ask a colleague to glance over it for you. Nothing looks less professional than a spelling mistake in the first paragraph!