How to Write a Press Release That Editors Run

Press release graphicI used to work for newspapers. I even owned a newspaper for a while. I’ve had hundreds of press releases cross my desk.
Which do I run? Which do I toss?
The general rule is easy to state, but a little more difficult to fully understand: A press release must contain actual “news.” If you want someone to publish your press release—or rewrite it and then publish it—it must be newsworthy.
The problem is that many business owners have no concept of what news is. Not long ago I wrote a press release for a person who was selling dietary supplements. His news? He was offering a discount coupon.
When I edited newspapers, if this kind of release came across my desk, I sent it to the advertising sales department with a yellow Post-it note affixed that said, “Sell this guy an ad.”

6 tips to make your press release newsworthy

To get the attention of editors, look for elements like these to create a newsworthy press release:

  1. You’re doing something charitable. If a percentage of sales goes to a nonprofit, or you’re sponsoring a fundraising event, be sure to distribute a press release. Announce these far ahead of time. Followup closer to the day. Write a “recap” after the event saying how much you raised, who the fun run winners were, etc.
  2. You’re the first! If you offer a service or a product that’s the first of its kind or otherwise unique, you should craft a press release. However, the article should not read like a sales brochure; it should focus on what makes it new and interesting. For example, if you started to import a new widget from Peru, discuss how you discovered the widget and what you had to do to import the widget.
  3. You’re adding staff or promoting. The “business” sections of local newspapers and magazines will devote some column inches to significant hires or promotions. Don’t tell anyone I said this, but you might change someone’s job title just to get a cheap mention in a publication. Remember, you didn’t read that here.
  4. Your product or service has done something notable. In the days before the Internet, I worked for a PR firm once—for about a week—selling a press release service. Wandering around an office building I found the headquarters of a company that sold adhesives. Boring, except I noticed pictures of buildings damaged in a huge Guatemalan earthquake. Their product was actually used to glue some buildings back together. That is a notable and very interesting story to tell. Has your product or service been used in a fascinating or unexpected manner?
  5. You’re changing your business model. Just like additions and promotions on your staff make good news for business publications, so does “expanding into a new market” or “introducing new products.” Do you see what the key word is here? It’s “new,” as in newsworthy.
  6. You have a great photograph. Publications love photographs and they greatly improve the odds of outlets using your press release. Even if they condense the release itself to a photo caption, it will get a lot of attention.

Think like a reporter and editor and you should be able to identify anything your business does that warrants a press release. If you think you have a great idea for a release, but need help crafting it, contact me.
Photo Credit:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/62693815@N03/6277208708/ “Newspapers B&W (3),” © 2011 Jon S, used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

rbmanley

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