By Nathan Resnick
Sending out a press release is a great way to get significant attention for your company. While the majority of journalists use press releases as a source for news, standing out in today’s digital environment can be difficult.
Some news outlets receive hundreds of press releases in a single day—so it shouldn’t be surprising that 70% of journalists spend less than a minute reading each one.
You don’t have much time to make an impression and get that coveted press coverage for your brand. Putting in some extra work to make sure the press release will be a smashing success before you send it out can make all the difference.
What makes a great press release?
1. Your content is truly newsworthy
This is the first big test: Is the topic of your press release actually newsworthy? Is it something that journalists—and the wider audience they serve—will care about?
In many ways, journalists act as gatekeepers to the news. As Remy Ludo Gieling, editor-in-chief for Dutch digital online magazines Sprout and MT, explains: “We’re quite a niche, so we have a very clear editorial guideline: a story is only interesting if entrepreneurs can learn from it. These need to be real stories, with real experiences, not small investment news, or ideas . , , What people often don’t understand, is that something they might be working on day in, day out, is not as interesting to others as it is to them. The fact that something is big news in their company doesn’t mean that it adds any value to other people.”
There are several factors that can influence whether a press release is truly newsworthy, including timeliness, the size of the company, and the impact of the event will have on the market as a whole. Before you start writing your press release, make sure it fulfills the values of news.
2. Headline and subheads sell the story
If you look at examples of press releases, a common theme prevails: in a world where journalists are increasingly short on time, the headline and subheads do much of the heavy lifting in motivating editors to keep reading.
A press release headline shouldn’t simply be a bland statement of what has happened with your company. Relevant adjectives and succinct details that offer some insight into why your story matters will do a better job of piquing a journalist’s interest than a dry, formal headline.
For example, if your company just conducted a major industry survey, the headline should offer insights into what that survey revealed. ,[Company’s] Survey Reveals Most Customers Prefer Short-Form Video Content” will be far more interested than ,[Company] Releases Survey Results On Video Content Preferences.”
The subhead is where you expand on the promise made in the main headline—this could include some specific stats from your study or details about an award won by a member of your company. This is where a journalist will judge if the rest of your content is worth their time.
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3. It covers the 5 Ws
After you’ve reeled in a journalist with a compelling headline and subhead, the rest of the press release needs to live up to those expectations. Depending on the news source you are targeting, the publication may prefer to publish press releases verbatim on its own site, or draw relevant information from your release to write its own story.
As such, your first order of business is to make sure that the first paragraph of your press release covers the 5 Ws (who, what, where, when, and why), as well as the “how.” Also, be sure to include your company name. This way, even if someone only reads the first paragraph, the most important information has still been delivered.
The rest of the body copy serves to expand on the information presented in the first paragraph. This may include stats or other details that add greater insights to your newsworthy topics. Similarly, any interview quotes that you include from company leadership should add value. Don’t waste space on empty, overly promotional talk!
A good rule of thumb is to follow the “inverted pyramid” style of news writing in a four or five paragraph press release. Essentially, this means that the most important information goes at the beginning. The content at the end of the release is still useful, but not as important if a journalist chooses to stop reading early.
4. Content is relevant for the target audience
The final piece of the puzzle for ensuring that your press release will be a true success is to focus on the target audience of the journalist you are pitching to.
It’s one thing for your press release to be newsworthy. But if you’re sending out the findings of your study on consumer lawn care habits, you probably aren’t going to get much traction when pitching to a digital marketing news site.
No matter how good the press release is, sending it to a journalist who will find it irrelevant is a waste of time. Do your due diligence by researching the journalists and publications that would find your content to be worthwhile and compelling for their own audience. Proper targeting paired with a newsworthy story can make up for less-than-perfect writing.
Determining your target audience in advance can also help you hone in on which details to focus on in the press release. How you would speak to shareholders is likely quite different than how you would communicate with the general public. Adjust your language based on your audience to increase your relevance.
Write a press release that works
Even with a well-written press release, there’s no guarantee that every news outlet you pitch will choose to cover your story. However, by following these essential guidelines and avoiding common press release mistakes, you can ensure that your content will have a much greater chance of standing out in a journalist’s inbox.
When you send out press releases that consistently meet these criteria, journalists will start to take note—and the amount of coverage you get for your business will increase accordingly.
About the Author
Nathan Resnick is the CEO of Sourcify, a sourcing platform backed by YCombinator that helps companies manufacture products around the world. In the past, Nathan has brought dozens of products to market, ran three e-commerce companies, and been a part of projects on Kickstarter raising over seven figures.
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