How to Write an Attention-Grabbing Press Release
You’ve read last month’s post about whether or not your news announcement requires a formal press release, and now you’ve concluded that it does. As you open a fresh document to begin drafting one, you are struggling with writing something that you feel will catch the attention of reporters and entice them to cover your announcement as a news story.
When it comes down to writing an engaging press release, it is best to err on the side of simplicity. A press release should convey a message that something has happened, is happening, or will happen in a concise narrative. Think of it as the bare bones of an article that journalists can then embellish and expand upon as they go.
So, how do you go about writing such a press release? It may be simpler than you think. Just abide by these few rules:
Timeliness is Top Priority
Oftentimes, a press release will be in the future tense; meaning something will be happening. For example, if you are writing for a nonprofit company that is hosting an event at the end of the month, you will want to start drafting a press release as soon as possible to create some lead time to disseminate your press release to desired media contacts. That way, the reporter does not feel rushed, has time to create a story, and will open up more chances for desired audience members to know about the event and plan to attend. There are a few instances where a press release will be in the past tense (company acquisitions, mergers, large charitable donations, etc.). Regardless of whether your company is announcing something in past or future tense, remember that timeliness is key. It is important to draft a quality press release and have it in the reporter’s inbox as soon as possible.
Your Lead is the Deciding Factor
Reporters are constantly hounded by PR professionals, which means they may only take the time to scan through your press release before agreeing to write a story about it. Thus, you need to grab their attention right from the beginning.
In journalism, the lead sentence is the first sentence in the story and it traditionally follows a template called the “5 W’s.” This means that the lead will answer the who, what, when, where, and why. In the case of a nonprofit hosting an event, the “who” is the organization, the “what” is the event, the “when” is the date, the “where” is the venue, and the “why” is the reason for hosting it. This provides the reader with the announcement’s most essential facts and informs them of what the story is about.
If you were to write a lead that captures the 5 W’s for your nonprofit’s event it would read something like this: Nonprofit Org, LLC (who) has announced today that they will be hosting their annual charity banquet (what) on Sunday, September 3 at 12pm (when) at the Princeton-Based Hotel (where) to raise money for Their Charitable Cause (why).
After you have created a successful lead, the following sentence should inform the reader why this is important. After all, if you have created a press release, you have decided the announcement is newsworthy. It’s time to justify it. The next statement after the lead in the nonprofit’s press release would be something like: This marks the first time that the organization will be donating over $50K to establishing scholarships for at-risk high school students in the local community. There’s a community benefit angle, and that may entice the reporter to write a story about it.
Integrate Quotes from the Right People
Oftentimes, a press release will be the source that reporters draw quotes from. Have you ever read similar news articles from two separate publications to find that they used the same quotes? They likely pulled them from a press release! To best frame your narrative and control your message, seek out opportunities to integrate quotes. After the essential information has been introduced (see 5 W’s above), select personas, such as an executive at your company, to provide quotes to add context and a human element to your press materials.
Be a Resource to the Reporters and Readers
Make sure you provide sufficient contact information to a reporter. If you do not have a communications or PR person on staff, designate someone with authority to serve as the press contact. Invite the reporters to partner with you in disseminating your message to the masses and remain open and communicative with them if they would like to follow up for more information. Designate your press contact on the document and provide a working phone number and company email where a reporter can reach them.