When written correctly, a press release can pique a reporter’s interest and provide your organization valuable media coverage. Whether communicating information about a new product or service, an upcoming event or the hiring of a new staff member, a press release is an excellent way to gain free publicity for your organization. Here are some essential techniques to guide you in creating a well-written press release.
- Include an attention-grabbing headline. The headline should be short, intriguing and peak the media’s interest. Your media contacts see hundreds of press releases come across their desk. Reporters are interested in stories that are newsworthy and meaningful to their audience. A compelling headline will help yours stand out as such. If you are unsure how to craft a solid headline, review the headlines found in your local newspapers or online media outlets.
- Write it like a news story. Include the most important information in the first paragraph—the who, what, why, when, where and how. Many media outlets now work with limited resources and staff. Creating a complete and concise press release will minimize the time the reporter needs to spend making it print or broadcast ready.
- Avoid jargon and industry-specific terminology. The media and the public may not be familiar with language used within your organization or industry. Be sure to create the press release using language your target audience will understand, even if this means defining necessary terminology within the press release.
- Keep it short. There is such a thing as too much information. A press release should be no longer than two pages—one page is even better. The press release should highlight the most compelling aspects of your story. As noted earlier, the first paragraph should include the essential information that will drive the reporter’s need to know more.
- Proof read. Grammatical and factual errors can significantly reduce the credibility of your press release. It is critical that the information provided within your press release is accurate and can be easily verified if needed. Quotes by subject matter experts can provide additional support to claims or facts stated throughout the press release.
- Know your media. Not all press releases may go to the same media contacts. Research your media contacts to identify their area of specialty. It is also vital to know story deadlines and news distribution cycles. For example, a press release about an upcoming event your company is hosting may not be a reasonable fit for an annual publication.
- Be available. Even a well-crafted press release may need additional follow up. Be sure to include media contact information and be available to answer any questions the reporter may have and do so in a timely manner.
Devon Chestnut, a public affairs specialist with Cox Communications in Gainesville, Fla., has worked in community relations, media relations, government relations and internal communications for more than eight years. She is president of the Gainesville Chapter of the Florida Public Relations Association.