Earlier this year Steve Slaunwhite asked me to make a contribution
to the 2nd edition of his book Start & Run a Copywriting
Business (Self-Counsel Press, 2005, 217 pp. plus CD-ROM, ISBN
1-55180-633-9). He wanted professional advice on how to write press
releases, something concise that would provide instruction to writers
new to the format and style of PR/media writing. Some information
bears repeating so here they are, as they appear in the book, my
top five tips for writing press releases:
1. Be Newsworthy
While assessing a story's newsworthiness is often subjective and
instinctive, there are guidelines you can use to test its news appeal.
Consider whether your story is immediate. Is it close to home? Does
it affect many people? Does it have lasting importance? Certainly
emphasize what is "new", "better" or "different"
about your subject matter by explaining how it affects the reader.
2. Be Brief, especially in the headline
You are writing to appeal to media professionals who specialize
in three-worded headlines and eight second sound bites, so keep
your message short and concise. Choose your words carefully. Trying
to fit the whole story into a headline or writing more than one
full page of body copy does not make for a compelling press release.
3. Follow the set format
Press releases are structured with a specific place and spacing
for all components including the headline, release time, dateline,
body copy, end marker and contact information. Always follow the
format. Put everything in its proper place, on a document that uses
or resembles corporate letterhead.
4. Write like a reporter
Be factual and objective. Answer the five W's and one H - who, what,
where, when, why and how. Always write the release in a third person
voice using simple, precise language. No ten-dollar words or excessive
techno-jargon - unless you want to alienate your audience.
5. Include quotes
Support the facts in the press release with quotations from key
personnel or people directly involved in the story. Their commentary
helps to personalize the story and give it relevance and perspective.
Lynn Fenske is a freelance copywriter with extensive experience
working both sides of the media fence as journalist and publicist.
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