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How to write an eye-catching press release

November 27, 2012

At Bytestart, we receive hundreds of press releases every week. Although around 40% are usually relevant to UK small businesses, out of these we probably only end up using 4 or 5 a week in our news articles. Many are not relevant to our business, some are poorly written, and the majority are not newsworthy.

So how to you write a press release that will catch the eye of a busy editor or journalist?

The key to writing a good press release is to keep it short, to the point, well structured and relevant. The perfect press release would not only be related to the recipient’s business area, but should also be newsworthy. Using my own experiences of reading thousands of releases, here are some key steps to writing that perfect press release.

1. Make your Press Release Newsworthy

Most journalists are interested in writing interesting news pieces and features for their target audience. They are not particularly interested in finding out how your company works or who the MD is – they simply want interesting, fact-based news.

Bear this in mind when penning your press releases and try to be objective in the balance between providing an interesting story and providing background to your new product or service. A good example would be to commission a survey related to your new offering and make the findings the subject of the release.

2. Write a Good Headline

Believe me, unless your press release has an eye-catching subject line, it is likely to end up in the trash folder very rapidly. Most editors will not even open a release which doesn’t relate to their area of business, especially if the subject doesn’t hold their attention for at least two seconds.

3. Summarise the key points

Before the first paragraph, you should aim to write some key bullet points to summarise the benefits of your product or service.

4. First Paragraph is crucial

Try to insert a very short, punchy first paragraph summarising the aims of the press release – this can be either before or after the key points. Your press release should start off strong, followed by the detail. You may decide just to write a strong opening paragraph and not to use bullet points – that’s entirely up to you of course.

5. Quotes

Rather than expecting editors or journalists to call your company for quotes related to your press release. Do the leg work for them and include several quotes from suitably important people in your company.

6. Notes to Editors

Ensure you include contact email addresses and phone numbers, and ensure the relevant people are on hand to take calls if you are running a new campaign to promote a product or service.

If a journalist wants to follow up on your press release and can’t easily contact your company, he will bin the article and go on to the next possible news piece. If you are including facts or statistics in your release which have been provided by a third party, make sure you include credits or source for each piece of information in this section.

7. Keep it Short and Sweet

A press release should be several paragraphs long, and certainly no longer than 500 words in total. Remember, you are trying to provide a snapshot rather than an essay. Interested journalists/editors will contact you if they want to find out more.

8. Relevancy

Just as job hunters may write several CV’s in order to maximise their chances of securing roles at various companies, you should take time to tailor the press release to each recipient’s area of interest.

9. Style & Formatting

Make sure you write your release in the third person… spell check several times and ask colleagues to proof read before pressing the “send” button. Clearly mark the publication as a “Press Release”, and write “End of Release” following the content. If you are sending a press release via email (most likely), I’d recommend using plain text and not HTML. The simpler, the better.

10. Hire an Expert

If you want to make sure you hit the nail on the head first time with your press release, why not hire a professional to write one for you. A single page release shouldn’t cost more than a few hundred pounds to create. If your “news” is worthy of a press release in the first place, this could be money well spent.