10 Must Have Elements for A Great Press Release

It doesn’t often surprise me that individuals doing their own PR struggle with one thing -writing the press release. Think about it…I had an entire class, three credits, one semester long devoted to writing press releases, and DIYers are left to figure it out for themselves.

First things first, though….You must determine what your story is!

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Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, it seems, has their own way of writing a press release.  They come in all shapes and sizes; long, short, double-spaced, dull and un-informational and of course there are the good ones that seem to grab hold of the reader and compel journalists to tell the story.  Take a guess at which ones peak the interest of editors and drives PR for a business?  It’s not hard.  The reality is that some are better story tellers than others, better writers, but as owners of your business if you can’t find a professional who’s really good, than you are the next BEST person to tell your story.

Time and again clients come to me with their version of a press release – because there doesn’t seem to be one decent format out there to follow – and I have to edit, rewrite and re-format to get it up to snuff.  Their number one issue?

They don’t know how to tell their story in a compelling and interesting way.

Another mistake DIYers make is not writing a press release but a two-page sales sheet, which editors will immediately throw in the garbage.

So, how does a DIYer learn to write a good, eye-catching, attention-getting press release?  Well, you could join those who are learning through our SmallBizMadeEasy.com weekly course, that goes into real depth beyond what  this post offers; you could hire me as a consultant to assist or I can take a moment to share a few of the top elements every press release must include for success.

For me, personally, it usually starts with a great headline, something I can see as a newspaper article and I write the story from there.

Here are 10 Elements every press release should include:

1. Contact information (no kidding, some people actually forget contact information!): This includes name, phone, cell if you’re always on the go and email.  You want to be immediately reachable by any media person.

2. Release date: This is different than the date you put at the start of the lead paragraph, which is typically only month and year.  This date tells media exactly when the story was released and how timely it is.

3. A Powerful, Eye-Catching, Teasing Headline: The point of the headline of a press release is the same as a newspaper, to draw the reader in.  If you fail to capture their interest they won’t read beyond the headline.

4. Sub-headline: The purpose of this is to give a little more detail on what the press release is about.  Here’s a great example:

ONE ORGANIZATION BETS ON AMERICAN YOUTH TO HELP CHILDREN IN AFRICA

Kids Caring 4 Kids Encourages Kids and Young People to Say “i care 2” and Make a Difference for Children in Africa”

5. Strong lead paragraph: This is the first paragraph of the release and while it should tell the facts of what your business is doing, it also needs to be compelling.  This is the second place you can lose editors.

6. A Story-like body: Tell the story

7. Quotes: A chance to show expert positioning and create human interest

7. Links to websites: Press releases today are alive.  This means that media can immediate click live links in your release to go to websites for more information, video and more.  (Preferably there would be a link to your online press room)

8. How to: a key part of the story that you no doubt want journalists to include.  How to buy; How to join; How to contact; How much it costs; How it will change their life, etc.

9. The Why: Why does your story matter; Why is your product/service relevant; Why should they buy; Why will it change their lives, etc. (8&9 are often times also referred to as “a call to action”)

10. A boilerplate: a one general description of your business that appears at the end of the release

There it is!  And I can guarantee that no one else is going to be so specific and open with you on how to write your press release!  One can argue that at the end of the day it doesn’t matter if the release itself is actually in AP Style format, but that it’s the quality of the story written that will get attention.  I still believe both are true, but that’s probably because it was beat into me in Journalism school!

If you want to see what AP Style format looks like, visit our site!

Jennifer Fortney
Cascade Communications
and SmallBizPRMadeEasy.com
Follow me on Twitter @SmallBizPRXpert

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