Back to basics: the 7 stages of a solid press release
Press releases are (or at least should be) a key tool in every marketer’s box. Now different businesses will have different goals behind their release, but some common organisational cases for sending them include:
Gaining media coverage to build brand awareness;
Building or re-building your reputation - after a re-brand, for example;
Managing a crisis - like in the event of a faulty product batch, your service going down, or being slapped with a fine;
Building backlinks from reputable sites to aid your SEO efforts; and
Promoting the launch of a new product, service, or appointment within your business.
When should I send a press release?
The key ingredient of any successful press release is its newsworthiness. No journalist wants to open a pitch about an award you won three months ago, or a CEO you appointed last year. It’s old news. It’s more than likely already been covered. And the relevance is lost.
If you want journos to pay attention to you, you need to put yourself in front of them right off the bat of the event happening - the sharpness of this really is imperative.
And, whether you’re a big or small business, there are opportunities to sell yourself to the media - don’t fall into the trap of thinking what you’ve got to say isn’t news just because it doesn’t involve celeb gossip or government secrets. If you’re after a bit of inspiration, here are a few ideas to get you going:
Breaking news announcements
Product or service launches
New or impending partnerships
Awards you’ve won
Hiring new executives (this is more likely to lead to a release for larger organisations)
Crisis management - they say there’s no such thing as bad publicity, right?!
Key press release ingredients
Whether you’re distributing press releases and struggling to get the traction you'd hoped for or you’re completely new to the field, here are seven boxes your pitches need to be ticking.
1. Catchy titles
What's your title saying? Put yourself in journalists' shoes: if you read it, would you really want to read on? If the answer's no, then go back to the drawing board.
Here are a few pointers:
As demonstrated with pointer number one, if you're working with a research-based press release and you're spoilt with striking stats, consider using your strongest one to pull journos in.
Below your title, using bullet points, summarise three or four key points from your press release. These are incredibly important. If they’re dull, journalists will move onto the next one. If they’re effective, they’re more likely to get their teeth stuck into the rest of your release.
In practice, it should look a little bit like this:
3. Logic always prevails
Structure your press release using a logical hierarchy. Start with your most important points and work your way down, ensuring your order flows. As with any type of writing, the last thing you want to do is baffle the reader to the point of no return.
4. Demystify your data
If your press release is digit heavy, do some number crunching and display your data in an easy-to-digest format – like a table or chart, for example. Don’t make journalists have to work to understand your numbers – it’ll turn them off.
Example A: clunky
According to our research, 86% of Brits really do believe carrots help them see better. Those aged between 18 and 24 were most likely to cite sight-seeing benefits (92%), respondents between 25 and 34 were marginally less likely (89%), people aged 35 to 45 were much more skeptical (67%), and 74% of Brits aged 45+ believed carrots helped with their vision.
Example B: clear
According to our research, 86% of Brits really do believe carrots help them see better, and the belief varied somewhat by age:
5. Add a quick quote
It doesn’t have to be exhaustive, but you should close your press release with an authentic, value-adding quote from a relevant spokesperson within your business. If your release is being targeted at largely different audiences, consider customising your quote to best fit the requirements of each.
For example, if your release is around the cost of going vegan, the version that’s being targeted towards money-motivated publications might focus on the financial side of things, and the version going out to animal rights organisations might centre around the environmental element.
Worst case, failure to tailor your quote could actually do a bit of damage to your brand. Sticking with the vegan scenario, say you go out with a blanket quote to everyone on your distribution list. In the quote, you speak about the cost implications of a vegan diet. The recipient from the animal rights organisation’s blood will likely boil at the notion of money being more important than the life of an animal. The moral of the story? It’s better to be safe than sorry.
6. Pull together a brief boilerplate
A boilerplate is a standardised paragraph about your business and it helps journalists who haven’t come across your brand before get to know a bit about you.
Within it, you should describe your business, its purpose, and even its size and presence (i.e. worldwide, European-wide, UK-based).
For a closer look at how to pull your boilerplate together, check out this guide.
7. Make yourself contactable
Last but certainly not least, round off your release with your (or a relevant person’s) contact details in case a journalist has a question or wants to request additional information.
Whatever you do though, make sure the details you give are up-to-date and regularly monitored – if a journo needs something and they can’t get hold of you, you run the risk of them dropping your story.
A few extras
Word count: there’s no golden rule when it comes to word count, but, length-wise, it’s best to keep within two pages of a Word document (including your boilerplate and contact details). After all, who has time to read page after page?
Spacing: to make your press release super easy to read, set your document to a line space setting of 1.5.
Linking: remember to add a link back to your website within the body of your press release (preferably towards the top). If picked up, this'll aid your SEO efforts.
If you need a hand crafting your business’ press releases, then look no further. I’ve put together pitches that’ve made it onto the likes of The Guardian, The Independent and Daily Mail, and there’s no reason your name can’t be next.
For more information on how I can help, you can find me on firstname.lastname@example.org or +44 7824 394 237.