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PR 101 - press releases

by Communications Assistant, Sadie Cole. 

Writing press releases is at the centre of what a PR exec does. That being said, there is stiff competition when it comes to grabbing a journalist’s attention. Still, the process of writing a press release, issuing it, and securing coverage need not feel overwhelming. For those who are just beginning their PR career as well as heavyweights in the PR field seeking to refresh their knowledge of the basics, here are some of MK’s top tips for the process of creating and distributing releases. 

Structure 

A clear, easy-to-read press release structure is essential. The NC Group PR Director, Caroline Woffenden, points out that there’s three types of reader: 

  • Those who skim the text (7 seconds) 

  • Those who scan the text (30 seconds) 

  • Those who read the whole text (Only about 7% of all people!) 

So, what does this mean for the PR exec who has spent time carefully crafting a release? Well, the odds are not exactly in our favour, especially if we consider the volume of press releases which journalists receive each day (several hundred!). You want to make sure that when your email lands in a journalist’s inbox, the release is laid out in a clear manner, structured with several short paragraphs, a sub-heading and a heading which effectively convey your story. 

Pictures 

Though it is not always possible to issue pictures alongside a release, those which do have accompanying images tend to catch journalists’ eyes. As such, it’s always worth asking your client whether they have any images which they would be happy for you to distribute with the release. 

Pitch appropriately 

Is your story a human-interest story, or more business-centred? How does this affect what publications you’re going to be issuing to? What does the journalist who you are pitching to typically write about? These are questions you need to be asking yourself every time it comes to writing and pitching a release. This leads to the next point. 

Media Lists 

This is an important one – don’t neglect your media lists! Make sure that these are kept on top of and are routinely updated with new journalists’ and publications’ contact details. Dedicating some time to your media lists is one of the easiest ways to make your life easier when it comes to issuing and selling-in the story. 

Headline & Subheading 

It goes without saying that you want your headline to be eye-catching, but what else is important? Whilst there is no single ‘perfect’ headline length, and some releases will naturally require slightly longer or shorter headlines, make sure that you’re conveying the key message of your release. It’s also important to consider the nature of your release; a B2B headline is going to look different to a B2C one. For example, try to avoid using overly-specific jargon or language outside of the vernacular in consumer-targeted releases. 

Angle 

It’s all well and good having a story, but is what you’re pitching newsworthy? Sometimes all it takes is a bit of creative thinking and story-tweaking to make your client’s stories stand out. Whichever publication you’re pitching to, it’s vital to make sure that you have a definitive, clear angle which runs throughout the piece. 

Proofread 

Ask a colleague to proofread your releases – it’s crucial to get a second pair of eyes looking over what you’re writing. When you’ve been staring at a piece of text for a long time, it’s easy to miss small errors. By having a colleague look over your release, not only are you ensuring that it is free from errors, but you are also able to tap into their creative juices and see what contributions they might have to improve the release. 

Utilise the Internet 

When it comes to getting tips and tricks, the internet is your best friend. There is an abundance of articles out there offering insight into what it takes to secure coverage, so take advantage of them! My personal favourite tip that I have learnt is that odd numbers appear more credible than round, even numbers – who would have thought! Keeping facts like this in the back of your mind will help when it comes to writing effectively.  

What are your favourite tips and tricks when it comes to writing a press release? Let us know!