A refresher on how to write a press release

110214immediate296It seemed a good idea – spend an early hour on a Bank Holiday Monday to get up-to-date with the email inbox. Catch up on those emails that I’d marked to give attention to when I had time.

After going through the marker list for the past week, I’m left with a sense of real exasperation. Yes, I got through my marked emails, but it included over a dozen email press releases that are to do with products, services and industries that broadly would fit my interests, yet are so appallingly structured, written and targeted that I sometimes despair of the PR business.

People, have you forgotten how to write a press release? How to communicate actual news not mundane fluff dressed up as news? How to determine who should get your press release, not just do a mail merge from a Cision or Vocus contact database and splurge out your email like so much spam? How to be sure you trust the recipient when you email him/her an embargoed press release? And checked that the recipient of your email missive is even in the country of your domestic announcement?

Please, spend a bit of time learning how to take your newsworthy information and use it to tell a story. This video might help:

(If you don’t see the video embedded here, watch it on YouTube.)

Note the simple methodology in the video, the 5 Ws (to which I’ve added a sixth):

  1. Who is this about?
  2. What is the actual news?
  3. When does this happen?
  4. Where does this take place?
  5. Why is this news?
  6. Why is this relevant to the person you’re sending it to?

You might want to consider question 6 as your question 1.

The video, published in 2009 but still relevant, also includes an H: How is this happening?

You can easily answer those questions. If some aren’t entirely relevant (eg, you’re not announcing an event), well, adapt them to your specific news announcement.

Of course, there is a great deal more to consider when writing a press release and determining where it fits into your tactical communication that supports your strategy. But this is a good starting point.

Take a look at An Inconvenient PR Truth – you’ll find some more common sense there. And, check Tom Fishburne’s 2011 post (from which the cartoon above comes) on press releases and earned media.

Please, make me really look forward to getting your press release emails. I want you on my white list, not the black list.


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Communication Leader, Social Media Leader, Consultant, Digital Change Agent, Speaker with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

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