Your company or organization has some exciting news to share, but you're not sure how to get the word out. Press releases are an excellent and simple way to spread the word about your company's announcement, whether it's a new building project, an upcoming event, an important transaction, a new hire, or a promotion. Creating a press release does not have to be difficult. Here are eight pointers for writing an effective press release:
1. Create a catchy headline
Every day, journalists receive hundreds of emails. A catchy but informative headline will help your press release stand out from the crowd. Keep your headline to six words or less (you can always add a subhead) and make sure it contains the most important information. Don't be boring and say something like, “Company A hires a worker.” Instead, say something like, “Company A hires Jane Smith for key role.” In terms of design, don't forget to center and bold the headline. Make it approximately 20 points. If you want to add a subhead, put it in italics (rather than bold) and make it about 16 or 17 points.
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2. Get a good start
Begin the press release with the name of your organization and the city and state in which it is located. Begin with that information and then add a dash; from there, you can proceed directly to the release.
3. Avoid burying the lead
The lead is the main point of the story for journalists. Make sure the main point and all key information are included in the first paragraph of a press release. You can't guarantee that reader will read any further, so make sure it contains the essential information. Secondary and supporting information should be included in the second and third paragraphs.
4. Keep the Five Ws in mind
An effective press release must address the following questions: what, when, who, where, and why. What is going on? When and where? What is the cause of this? Who are the people involved? This information must be included in a good press release. Without it, the reader will press the delete button. Also, if it works, include the “H”—what is going on? These are all important writing tips.
5. Use the appropriate style
As a news story, write a press release. Keep your sentences short and to the point. Use no jargon or terms that the average person will not understand. Concentrate on facts and information—remember, you want the reporter who receives your press release to understand that it is news. Another critical component is to run a spell check and thoroughly read it before sending. If they receive an error-filled release, reporters will immediately hit the delete button.
6. Include a quotation
Quotes are popular with reporters, so include one in your press release. Make sure the quote sounds genuine and not canned, whether it comes from the company president or a fundraising chair (if the release is about an upcoming event). Read it aloud to ensure that it sounds like something a real person would say. Another piece of advice about quotes: don't make them too long. Remember that it should sound like it was said by someone—if it has four long sentences, cut one of them.
7. Include your contact information
You must make it simple for the reporter to contact you for additional information or if he or she has any questions. Include your contact name, email address, and phone number, or those of a key person involved in the company's news. It's also a good idea to include website addresses right in the press release so reporters can go there for more information. Remember to include the company's Twitter handle or Facebook page address as well.
8. Conclude on a high note
Traditionally, press releases end with three ###s. It indicates to the reporter that the release has ended. By including that, you show the reporter that you understand how news releases work, and he or she is more likely to take you seriously.
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