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September 16th, 2011

How to write a great press release?

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Written by: Balaji
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PR

Press release is a marketing tool where you announce a major development from your company – a new product, release in a new market, an acquisition, brand name change, etc. As startup entrepreneurs we must understand the art of writing great press releases as we cannot usually afford to hire a media agency for this. In this article we will cover the basics and share the essential tips.

What is a Press release?

Press release is a pseudo-news story, written in third person, directed at news agencies and bloggers. It generally breaks a news about the company to public, inviting comments and reviews from the media & the general public. An ideal press release is newsworthy and one whose contents could be reused for the most part by the reporters in writing their story. Thus, you should write in an objective way without too much of buzzwords and platitudes. Press releases are typically emailed to bloggers, reporters and editors, and also submitted to online press release distribution tools.

Here are some sample press releases from SME toolkit.

Components of a press release

  • Headline – This is the most important part of the press release.
    • It must really catch the attention of the reader. Think like a press reporter.
    • Don’t go overboard & don’t try to give your egos a boost. Eg. “New product from John Callagan will change the world”
    • Phrase the stuff for your audience. If they are grandmas don’t use architect lingos there.
    • Use 2-3 keywords for SEO.
    • When appropriate use lists in the title. Eg. “Seven reasons why you should try the new Samsung Galaxy tablet”
    • Bold the entire headline and use a bigger font. Cut the “a”, “the” etc. Capitalize the first word and all proper nouns.
  • Subtitle – This is an optional one sentence that provides additional information to the title.
  • Introduction/Lead – Start with the city & date (New Delhi, September 21) and in the next 2-3 sentences summarize the release and tell the reader why the content is newsworthy. Address what is the news, why is it important, the people involved, when and where it happened and how it will impact the reader.
  • Body – This is where your main content goes.
    • Elaborate the lead and keep it to 3-4 paragraphs and avoid long, tiring sentences. Think of this like a news article and see if you as a third person would like to this in a newspaper.
    • In the first 2 paragraphs address the benefits and the demographics who would most benefit.
    • Mention key customers and awards, if any, that the product has won.
    • Use quotes from 1-2 actual customers and also use a quote from the founders/spokesman of the company.
    • If it is a product include pricing, how it can be purchased & availability information.
  • Company Bio – Start with a section title “About Companyname” and write in 1-2 pagraphs about the company, industry, location, the key people involved and the main products/services. You may also talk briefly about your vision and key achievements.
  • Contact Information – This is what the reporters will use if they need to get more information from you. Give the name of the press contact in your company, along with email, company website, phone number, corporate address etc. Use actual address (instead of a post box address) to improve credibility of your company.
  • End the press release with ### – a standard journalistic convention.

Here are some Microsoft Office templates for Press release.

General Tips

Timing

  • When appropriate use a current event or local issues to tie your press release. If you have produced a new drug for cancer and there is a marathon event for cancer, mention it.
  • Time your release in the middle of the week (Tue-Thu) and avoid major holidays.
Content
  • Proofread to identify typos and grammatical errors. Don’t rely on spellchecker alone.
  • Write in third person – don’t use “I”, “We”, etc.
  • Avoid jargons and too technical stuff. Remember this is for the consumption of general public.
  • Don’t write too rigid or too playful. Keep it direct and professional.
  • Use  your company name in the title, subtitle and the lead along with 2-3 main keywords in your product niche for better SEO.
Communication
  • When emailing it to reporters, use the subject line as the press release title. Don’t just say “Press Release”.
  • Follow up with the reporters and bloggers, and be considerate. Don’t push too hard and risk getting tagged as a spammer.
  • Format it well, and use the right fonts in right sizes.
  • If you are sending a printed copy, use your company letterhead.
  • Post your press release in your company blog and also link it in Twitter.

Submitting your press release

Apart from submitting to bloggers and reporters, you can also use one of the professional PR services listed below. If you are targeting US media, signup with HARO as a source and you could send your press releases to the reporters there.



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About the Author

Balaji
+Balaji heads a consultancy firm - Agni Innovation Labs - that helps small businesses, law firms and political campaigners launch their brand successfully. The services include blogging, press releases, social media strategy development and email campaigning. Contact the author: balaji [at] theagni [dot] com for more details.




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