By Terreece M. Clarke
Press releases make up a nice little chunk of web writing and is good steady work if you are interested. Why? Because on any given day there are thousands of companies trying to catch the eye of the media and potential customers. Many of these companies don’t have a public relations team. Many freelance writers are curious about press releases, but are intimidated by the process. There’s nothing to fear, content is content, it is the approach that is different.
What’s the point?
Press releases are designed to get the media interested enough in a company, product or event, etc. to write an article about it. Press releases should also target clients of the company, because while the release may not crack the media for coverage, it may appeal to an alternative audience.
For example, a new business writing seminar may not attract a lot of media interest, but local writer’s groups, chambers of commerce and small business organizations are potential clients that the company can reach through a release. The key to any press release is the information to be released has to be newsworthy, like a product launch, business anniversary, mega sale, star studded event or research breakthrough. Now for the mechanics of a press release:
Head it up
As with any article, story or blog, the headline is your best opportunity to bring in the target audience so write a good one, but a short one. Any other info can be put into a sub-heading. A quick Google search produced these great headlines:
Give me body
The body of the release begins with a straight lead (lede) – the who, what, where, why and how. Avoid cutesy stuff and sales pitches. The rest of the release should incorporate some really great pull quotes, more detailed information about the newsworthy item and contact information. A release should be interesting, but avoid flourishes. This is part of what separates a release from a sales letter.
Press releases have a particular format: headline, dateline, lead (lede), body, boilerplate (basic company info), close and contact info:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Terrific Title Blah, Blah, Blah Announces Blah, Blah
Insert possible longer headline here
City, State – Date -Lede with the who, what, where, why, how; the “So what?” factor.
Second paragraph, elaborate on the information from the lede. Use short paragraphs and only great – not good, not just okay – quotes. Remember no hype or hard selling, it’s just the facts ma’am, told in an interesting way to highlight the newsworthy item.
Company info paragraph – who is Greater Smurf Eradication Inc.? The leading Smurfing detection agency in the tri-state area with 10 year Smurfing veteran A.Z. Rael…
The last paragraph should give an action item, i.e. for more information call whomever or tickets are available at the web site, etc.
### (this symbol placed at the end of the release indicates the end of the release)
That’s it. The basic press release – see not so scary huh? The basic format of a release will probably always stay the same, but releases are going colorful with companies adding photos, video, sound bytes, additional attachments, etc. All the latest whizbangs and whatnots are cool, (did I just age myself 100 years?) but nothing replaces well-written copy and respect for standard formatting.
So any of you adverturous FWJ writers thinking about sticking a toe into the PR world?