Learning to write an effective press release is an essential skill for public relations practitioners, whether you’re writing for your clients or your own company. This task may be daunting at first, but with a strategic set of guidelines your press release will stand out among the competition.
8 Steps to Writing an Effective Press Release
1. Write From a Newsworthy Angle
You may not have the option to choose the topic you write about. But you do have the option to select the most newsworthy angle for your press release. Before you begin writing, ask yourself if there is anything new, unusual or interesting that would pique the interest of your target audience.
2. Know Your Audience
Research your audience to better understand what interests them and how you could personalize the story to make it relevant. You may want to create slightly different versions of your press release that speak to various types of readers and/or outlets. For example, you may not have the same call-to-action for a media release that you do for one targeted to nonprofits. Keep the general story the same but use personalization to reach your readers.
3. Lead With a Catchy Headline
The human attention span is only eight seconds, meaning it is vital to catch and keep your reader’s attention at first glance. Your headline gives readers a snapshot of what your press release will include and elicits immediate emotions. When writing your headline, think of what phrases will intrigue your audience to captivate their attention and motivate them to act on your call to action.
4. Get to the Point
Journalists, news publications and media outlets are constantly inundated with press releases. Unless the first sentence of your release grabs their attention, they probably won’t finish reading it. Treat your opening paragraph as a news story lead written in an active voice that summarizes the most important aspects — who, what, when, where, why and how. This gives your readers the most important information upfront in a clear, concise manner.
5. Incorporate Quotes to Provide Insight
Use quotes when writing your press release to provide personal insight rather than additional information. When quotes are used correctly, they evoke imagery, inspire action, and provide a glimpse into an organization’s personality. Make sure the quotes are appropriate and provide purpose. Keep in mind that quotes usually fit best toward the end of a release.
6. Include a Clear Call-to-Action & Contact Information
A call-to-action is vital for your press release as it gives readers a clear set of next steps. Make sure your release includes your agency’s or client’s contact information and the suggested next steps. For example, link to your website, online pressroom, a landing page, or your fundraising site to increase traffic from your target audience.
7. Check Your Grammar
Grammar mistakes in your press release can be detrimental to your story and brand. After you complete the first draft of your press release, have a colleague check for any grammar, punctuation or spelling errors. Another good tactic is to print out your press release for review. If you have any questions along the way, be sure to reference the Associated Press Stylebook — an essential tool for PR practitioners.
8. Follow up With Key Contacts
Reach out to key contacts you think would be most likely to share or engage with your content. Send the release to them personally along with a note about why you think they would be interested in your release. A personal email goes a long way when it comes to reaching out to key media influencers and organizations.
To get the best results from press releases, follow this clear and actionable checklist and share it with your team. For more PR tips, read Lorraine Schuchart’s top five PR lessons learned while running Prosper for Purpose.