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Top Tips for Press Release Writing

Journalists all over Britain are inundated with thousands of press releases every day, most of which are quickly scanned and then sent to the trash, usually on the strength of the introductory paragraph.

As a PR person, it’s your job to juggle what the client/company want included in the release with what journalists are looking for to publish a story.

What the client/company wants included:

  • The company message – the hard sell
  • Marketing messages
  • Positive coverage with all messages included
  • To as large an audience as possible
  • Commercial return on the PR investment
  • An individual and/or the company to look good
  • Product or service to be billed as ‘the best’ or ‘the first’ even if it’s untrue
  • The company message to stand alone

What the journalist wants included:

  • Genuine news – or a new twist on an old story
  • Change
  • Something interesting and specifically relevant to their readers
  • Something visual (a picture opportunity)
  • Little effort needed or…
  • An idea to expand into a wider story
  • People content/human interest/someone to interview to take the story further
  • Good quotes (honest, genuine, that add to the facts of the story)
  • Exclusive
  • Minimum ‘puffery’

As you can see above, the PR world has a difficult balancing act.

Types of Press Releases

Press releases come in multiple different forms, each of which has its own benefits depending on what you want to achieve with the release.

News

Appropriate for stories of profit increase, merger, new project, new research findings, new appointment, increased investment, an award, a major new order etc.

Consumer Sales Release

Aimed at consumer publications and are often written in a more sales orientated style, with research figures to reinforce the story, sometimes with the emphasis on “you”. Appropriate for publications whose journalists write in this style e.g. The lifestyle magazines.

Official Statement

Both reactive and proactive and written in a way that can; clarify stats, confirm news or an investigation. This can act as a buffer whilst additional information is being sort.

Background Information

Not intended for direct publication, but issued to the press to provide dates, statistics and background information on a company, a person or topic, especially useful when arranging a press briefing between a client and a journalist.

Scattergun Feature

A feature sent to many publications simultaneously on an important issue or development affecting a sector. It may be reproduced word for word, or may trigger the journalist into taking your handout as a basis for a story and developing it.

However, to guarantee success the content of a PR feature must be accurate, objective, useful and informative.

Targeted Feature

Written specifically for a targeted magazine or newspaper and targeted to their style.

Advertorials

Basically, these are funded by investment in advertising. It may be published in paid-for space, or be printed on a page surrounded by supporting advertising.

The Different Writing Styles For News And Features

Journalists on newspapers are usually split into two categories, News Story or Feature.

News reporters cover topical events. Strikes, job losses, local government decisions and events etc. News generally appears on the front page and the opening first few pages.

Feature writers cover profiles, in depth interviews, travel, opinion columns, lifestyle subjects like cookery or fashion etc.

In PR, you need to be able to recognise the different writing styles required and turn your hand to both as appropriate.