How a Copywriter Uses Press Releases to Boost Your Profits
Getting media coverage is a great way to get inexpensive, or free, promotion of your business. Press releases are still one of the best ways to get that coverage. The problem is that media outlets of all types are deluged with press releases, most of them of poor quality. If you want to get the best results from your press releases, there are some rules that you need to follow. In this article, I will share a few pointers based on over 30 years of experience of writing and using press releases.
This article is based on the premise that you are seeking to create genuine press releases rather than the all-too-common press release spam designed to be posted only to the many so-called press release sites. In almost all cases these sites are valueless in the promotion of your business and I do not offer services that support this so-called marketing form.
Use a Good Quality Press Release Template
When you work on press releases for your business it makes your life much easier if you use a press release template. A template helps you to create professional media releases because doing so ensures that you do not miss any important element from your release. At the same time, because using a press release framework imposes consistency on your work you will give a more professional appearance and that can stand out from amateurish competitors. Lastly, a template will save you valuable time. For your convenience, I have provided a free Press release template that you can use. The link is at the foot of this article.
Newsworthy, to a journalist, means that the item must be of interest to the journalist’s audience. This means that it is usually a waste of time to send out press releases to a myriad of destinations. It is better to target your press release to a relevant audience and then promote your release to publications targeting that audience.
There are six pillars to newsworthiness, once you know them and work with them your media marketing will become much more productive.
- Impact: The more people likely to be affected by your news the more important and newsworthy the piece becomes. For example, a bakery strike is likely to have less impact than a strike by nurses.
- Timeliness: Events that are happening right now are more newsworthy than events that happened in the past. The timeliest news is information that is being made known to the public before competing news outlets. This type of news is called a scoop and all news outlets like to be able to scoop their competition!
- Prominence: If your news item is about somebody in the public eye then it will be more newsworthy than if it were about a member of the public. If you can involve a celebrity in your press release it is more likely to be used by news outlets.
- Proximity: If your press release is about people in the community local to the news outlet then it will be more newsworthy than if it was about people in some far distant place. Sometimes it is not geography that makes for proximity but interest. For example, a story about online gamers might be of interest to gamers almost no matter where in the world they are, but those same readers will be less interested in a story about knitting, or cookery.
- Bizarreness: Unusual stories tend to be newsworthy. For example, recently I saw a news item about how a hunter had been injured by a goose. This is unusual because normally, it is the hunter causing the injuries. To make your press release score highly in this category try to find an element where the events run counter to those usually expected.
- Conflict: Disagreements between people are always of interest to news readers. War, public anger, and disagreements over strongly held positions are what grab readers’ attention and thus the attention of the journo scanning your press release!
No matter how hard you try it is unlikely that you will be able to create a press release that has all six of these qualities, but if your release is to have a chance of success it should have at least two or three.
Find an Angle and Write a Brilliant Headline
If you are on the phone, pitching a story to a journalist and she says ‘no’, it is probably because you have not convinced her that your news is relevant to her audience. The same applies to your press releases. You need to find a way to address the audience of the publications you are submitting your releases to. Obviously, when using a press release alone there’s no chance to make a personalised pitch so your headline must do the job of illustrating your new angle on what is, probably, not a unique or even new thing – truth is, there’s nothing new under the sun; the important thing is to find a new way to package your news to tempt the jaded palate of a journalist who has skimmed through hundreds of press releases already that day.
Your headline is the single most important part of your press release. Within a few words, that should not exceed one line, you must sell your news to the reader and convince him to read the rest of the release. The headline is a two-part affair. You have the main headline and then a sub-headline. The sub-head serves to expand on the content of the main headline and might be the mechanism by which you illustrate or suggest the novel angle for your press release.
Unless I am very lucky and have divine inspiration, it is common for me to spend almost as long on writing the headline as the whole of the rest of press release – it is that important!
Keep It Short, Keep it Simple
The person reading your press release is mining for gold in a field of mud. Most press releases are self-serving rubbish, but media outlets must deal with a huge number of them. The journalist or editor reading your piece needs to be able to get the story, the angle, and any quotes in just a few short seconds.
If your press release is to be used, then you need to keep it very short and easy to read (or skim through). Keep your release to less than one printed page. In terms of words that means less than 500 words and 350 is even better! Split the document into three sections and, where possible, use bullet points to make it easier for the reader to scan the page for important points.
Use the first section to sell the piece of news that you want to get published. Think from the perspective of the reader rather than your own perspective. This is a summary paragraph where you introduce the who, what, where, when and why/how of the document.
In the second section, you should expand on the points in the first part. Here you can use a couple of quotes from relevant and interesting people. Try to avoid generic puffery from the CEO or MD but choose words from people relevant to your readers such as users of your service or product. Where relevant include statistics, web links, and images.
The last part of the document is often seen as boilerplate, used in multiple releases. This is where you can describe your business and its activities. This should be fact-based and is not an opportunity to sell!
Much of the rest of the press release is page furniture. Below you can download a press release template that I use in my own work. This document shows each component of a professional -press release and all you need to do is replace the placeholder text with your own.
Of course, you will almost certainly get better results, more easily, by hiring a professional to write your press releases. I wrote my first press releases while working for a large daily newspaper over 30 years ago. Years of experience go into each press release I write giving a powerful blend of journalistic analysis with marketing insight that will get into the heads of the people reading your news.
Contact me HERE and we can start working on building your media marketing presence!
DOWNLOAD – FREE! Your Press Release Template (Word/Google Docs file)