How To Write A Press Release That Gets Noticed
There was a time, many years ago, when this blog post wouldn’t have been necessary. The phrase ‘press release’ carried a certain gravitas by itself – it would swagger its way confidently to the top of a journalist’s in-tray, those two words seeming to announce “Stop what you’re doing, this is important”. Now, of course, our age of limitless, instant communication has watered down the effectiveness of a press release.
Any organisation can fire one off to a thousand email addresses without so much as a second thought – meaning when a press release pings into a journalist’s inbox it’s just as likely to be about 2-for-1 kebabs as something genuinely useful.
This ‘boy who cried wolf’ effect means that if you’ve got a killer piece of content, your press release had better work extra-hard to catch the eye of a journalist sifting through their inbox before their first morning coffee. Here’s how to make sure your press release cuts through the noise and gets the attention it deserves…
1. Nail your headline and opening paragraphs
Here’s a counterintuitive tip to start off with. If your press release contains such compelling insight and unique content that it deserves to be read word-for-word from beginning to end, make sure it doesn’t need to be read past the first few sentences. Realistically, a skim-reading journalist is never going to get more than a paragraph in before deciding whether the story is worth their time. After four or five sentences, either you’ll have piqued their interest or you’ll be in the deleted folder.
This means that firstly, your headline needs to get swiftly to the point. Don’t just give an idea of what the story is about – put your most interesting finding or statistic front and centre, and think about who your press release is targeted at. .
The above example was targeted at Eastern European publications, so the headline is tailored accordingly – overlooking Europe-wide stats in favour of stats specific to the region. Within 11 words there’s a clear sense of relevance (or irrelevance, depending on the reader), you’re clear on what the story is and whether you’re interested – and by the end of the first paragraph, two key stats have been delivered along with the source of the data.
Everything from the second or third paragraph onwards should merely be supporting information. If you were to remove everything below this point, would your press release still make sense and communicate the necessary information? If the answer is ‘yes’, you’re doing this part right.
2. Keep to the point and don’t oversell
So you’ve hooked in your reader via the key facts and figures. In order to keep it that way, make sure that your sentences and paragraphs are short and straightforward. Remaining succinct throughout and delivering only the key information will work to your advantage, especially in a data-led piece – this unfussy, relatively formal approach will reinforce a sense of urgency.
Analysing data from official EU air-freight figures, it was found that Romanian airports feature twice in the top 5 European growth airports of the last 10 years – Cluj Napoca / Avram Iancu airport (621% increase) ranks 4th, and Timisoara/Traian Vula airport (497% growth) ranks 5th.
Showing the growth in economic potential in the Balkan region, Bargas airport in Bulgaria ranks 3rd in Europe for 10-year growth, with a 699% increase in freight tonnes per annum.
One of the crucial aspects of putting together an effective press release is not to over-elaborate. If your statistics or information are interesting enough by themselves (and they should be if you’re writing a press release about them) then you won’t need to use language to shine them up.
This puts hyperbole, excessive informality and exclamation marks out of the equation – there’s a very good chance that your press release will irritate the reader if you’re trying too hard to sell your content.
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If you have to tell the reader how interesting your information is, it probably isn’t. And while your ultimate aim might be to generate coverage or backlinks for your client, placing them so obviously front and centre certainly won’t do you any favours.
3. Add visual elements
A quick and easy way to make your press release stand out from the crowd is to include plenty of visual backup. This isn’t just to catch the eye of the reader where a solid block of text might not – if used properly, visuals can communicate huge amounts of information while suggesting that there’s more material to be found by clicking on a link.
These don’t have to be limited to graphs or other data visualisations – images and even embedded videos can really bring your press release to life and show exactly why your content is worth engaging with.
4. Know who you’re talking to
Giving due consideration to your reader doesn’t just mean tailoring your headline to include the most relevant data. If you’re really serious about generating coverage, get to know the publication you’re targeting inside out.
Take a close look at their website – what stories have they covered recently? Develop an idea of whether your story can slot into these (and if it can’t, is there a way you can re-angle it so that it will?). From the headline to the copy itself, try to match both the structure and style of your writing to that of the publication without coming across as an imitator – the more closely you can align your press release with their existing work, the easier your reader will find it to say yes.