The Secret to Writing Great Press Releases

Here’s another secret I want to share before I write more words: the press release is not dead.

I could go on and on and on  (and on) about why those who say the press release is dead are merely doing it for the hot takes, but the joke’s on them – the press release’s eulogy has been given so often that it just falls on deaf ears.

Meanwhile, those who know how to use them continue to see great results.

But just because it’s not dead doesn’t mean you should immediately fire up your Word processor and pound one out for your client.

There are still ground rules to follow to ensure an effective press release.

Lucky for all three of my readers, I’m in a giving mood today, so here are some secrets to writing great press releases.

For The Love of God, Use It To Break News

The quickest way to earn a press release deletion is to publish one that includes no news and is used just to appease a client or boss.

Don’t do that. You’ll anger the reporter (your intended audience) and it will be relegated to the scrap heap. (Plus, it’s quite obvious to everyone when a press release is issued just to issue a press release.)

Think long and hard about what you are announcing before you start typing.

Is your company announcing how innovative it is? Skip the release.

Is your company proving its innovation by releasing a new widget that will help customers in the space? Now we’re talking.

Don’t write a press release just to write a press release.

You can use that time to work on other projects.

Wait until you have news that is worthy of a news release, then move ahead.

Make Quotes Meaningful

Every press release includes quotes from executives, but most of those quotes are fluff.

“We are very excited to…”

“We are pleased to…”

“Blah blah blah…”

To increase the chances of a reporter pulling one of the quotes and using it in a story, write something meaningful.

I like to draft quotes from my executives that announce something significant as part of the announcement.

For instance, if we go back to the innovative widget I talked about up above, the quote might read something like this:

“This new widget will allow our customers to cut down on lead time by fifty percent thanks to a state-of-the-art process that is exclusive to our company,” said executive.

This is an important part of the story and a big reason why a customer might decide to use your company’s widget. Not only are you expressing that to the customer, but you are setting yourself apart from your competitors, and your executive gets the credit.

Don’t Forget About Pictures

If a picture is worth a thousand words, how come we don’t think about a visual component to the press release more often?

We spend so much time getting the words right that the image (if there even is one) becomes an afterthought; something we just haphazardly attach to the release before it goes live.

But a lot of sites (like GM’s media site, for instance) make images the focal point of the news.

No press release on the GM media site goes out without an image, even if it’s just a headshot of an executive. These images, when used correctly, can go a long way in helping to explain the news to the media, especially when the news is built around something that is new or complicated.

Keep Your Target Audience In Mind 

You are writing for the media. Full stop.

Sure, your leadership team and some of your customers will see the press release on your website once it’s released. But the purpose of issuing this release is so that media will want to write a story about your company.

If you are writing it for another audience, you’re doing it wrong.

Once the internal edits start flying back-and-forth, it’s easy to focus on the wants of those who are making the news instead of those who will consume it. But you have to stay focused on the fact that media need, well, the facts.

Do your best to eliminate flowery language and anything else that takes away from the gist of the release. Stick to the inverted pyramid and your audience will thank you.

Think Of It As Content

Content: so hot right now.

Think of your press release as another piece of content you create to tell your company’s story.

Before you put it up on your media site, take some time to practice proper SEO. Once you’ve done that — and you learn to master SEO over time — your press releases will not only earn coverage, but they will act as a beacon on the web for those who are interested in what you have to say.

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

What’s Wrong With Being A Public Relations Generalist?

There’s a phrase you’ve probably heard that goes like this: “A mile wide and an inch deep.”

According to Urban Dictionary, the phrase is used to describe somebody who seems smart and intelligent at first, but is found to be less-than impressive after you spend time getting to know them.

These folks are perfectly capable of holding their own for a few minutes. But once you start to drill down into their knowledge base, it becomes quite clear they know just enough to be dangerous.

Sadly, I fear that is how a lot of public relations professionals are viewed, and I’ll use myself as an example.

Just over a year ago, I was pitching stories about General Motors fleet vehicles to fleet trades.

When I switched jobs, I focused on stories around the 3D printing of automotive parts and artificial intelligence (along with, seemingly, everybody else in the field.)

When I lost my job at the end of last year, I started working with a new agency where the majority of my clients are in the commercial real estate business.

Fleet vehicles. 3D printing. Commercial real estate.

Can you think of three more disparate industries?

I wouldn’t blame anyone for thinking my expertise on these subjects amounted to me being “a mile wide and an inch deep.”

But the basic tenets of public relations storytelling remain the same, no matter which topics you pitch.

It doesn’t matter if I’m pitching WIRED for a story about artificial intelligence’s impact on manufacturing or the Detroit Free Press for a story about Detroit’s real estate rebirth.

If I can uncover trends and offer experts who can speak to those trends, I’m able to land coverage, even if I don’t have a deep well of knowledge in either subject.

And by keeping tabs on what reporters on specific beats are covering, I can tailor my pitches to their interests.

These are PR tactics that have withstood the test of time, and every public relations practitioners should practice them.

I’ve written before that in order to be helpful to a reporter, you need need to focus on certain activities.

If you weave them into your repertoire, you will be successful, no matter what story you pitch.

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash