How to write a winning press release

Not so long ago, PR and marketing professionals were predicting the end of the humble press release.

They were deemed out-dated and old fashioned – relegated to the past as digital communication channels exploded and social media took centre stage.

But despite the expected demise, they remain an effective and relevant tool for communicating news.

Why is that?

Basically, a well-written press release will tell the story of a product, brand or service. Then, if pitched correctly, the news will reach the target audience, which is the overall aim of the game.

So forget the naysayers. The press release is here to stay and should be considered by any business wanting to shout about their work.

Here’s how it works and how to write a winning press release.

Find a newsworthy angle

First and foremost, a press release is a short news story filled with facts written for the benefit of the press. This means the media become the gatekeeper of the story.

But as long as the press release has a newsworthy angle, it should capture their attention and place the story in front of the intended audience – the readers/listeners/viewers of the media outlet.

Use the inverted pyramid structure

The inverted pyramid structure ensures the most important information is featured at the top of the release.

This way, if an editor cuts out the final paragraph the key messages will still be included.

Bonus tip – media people are busy people, so it’s crucial to catch their attention straight away.

Here’s an example of the inverted pyramid structure:

  • Paragraph 1: sum up the entire story
  • Paragraph 2: add context and explain why it’s important
  • Paragraph 3: include more detail, such as who’s involved
  • Paragraph 4: feature a great quote that adds value to the release
  • Paragraph 5: explain how people can find out more, attend an event, or get in touch

Focus on the ‘w’ questions

The ‘w’ questions will provide the backbone to the press release and help to define the news angle.

‘W’ questions:

  • Who: the company/person/brand
  • What: e.g. releasing a new product or service; announcing a new client
  • Where: the location where it is based or where something is happening
  • When: the date when the new thing will happen
  • Why: the reason for the development
  • How: the actions involved

Write an attention-grabbing headline

Never underestimate the power of a strong headline.

Why? Because without a headline that is clear and concise it’s unlikely that an editor/journalist will read the rest of the story. No matter how great the writing might be.

And avoid clever puns – stick to the facts and use simple, powerful language.

Focus on one story

When writing a press release it can be tempting to reveal everything in one go and shout to the roof tops about how great a company is. But it pays to send out news strategically.

By sticking to one story for each release, the overall message can be carefully controlled. It also provides the opportunity to send out a second release later.

The drip-feed approach is an important strategy in communications because it helps to generate interest. And press releases play a big role in that.

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