By Jana Cave-Ayland:
Contrary to increasingly popular belief, PR doesn’t stand for press release. It’s short for public relations. A press release is just a tool, albeit an important one, in the PR toolkit. It’s the go-to method to share news with the media because of its standard, time-tested structure.
So, what’s this structure all about? It revolves around the essential 5Ws: what, who, when, where and why, with a sixth, ‘how’, detailing the story further. Let’s take a closer look.
This is your cornerstone. Before drafting a press release, ask yourself two crucial ‘why’ questions. First, why are you even sending out a press release? Second, why should anyone care to read it?
There might be mandatory reasons for a press release, like updating shareholders as per regulations. But, at times, businesses circulate them out of sheer habit. This is what we want to challenge. Now, press releases have their merits. They’re great for building journalist relationships. And in today’s world of questionable online content, a press release stands as a beacon of credible information. It lets your business control its narrative.
But if your news doesn’t resonate with the audience, reconsider the need for a press release. Some announcements might fit better elsewhere. Which leads us to the next W.
Not every piece of information is news. True, events like appointments, major launches, investments and acquisitions sound noteworthy. But not all are headline-worthy. If you’re keen to know more about what truly constitutes news, I’d recommend perusing our previous blog, Five things… that make news.
Your press release isn’t an internal memo. It’s meant for a broader audience. Craft it by keeping your target audience in mind, rather than focusing only on how to appease the higher-ups in your company. Remember, journalists will be the first to read it. Their decision on its newsworthiness for their readers is crucial. Aim to impress them first, and the rest will follow. The trick is to remember these are incredibly busy people who won’t read a press release twice if the message isn’t clear.
Timing is everything.
So here’s the first rule – avoid Fridays. A press release on a Friday might seem like you’re burying uncomfortable news, hoping it gets lost in the weekend lull. Also, keep tabs on school breaks, bank holidays and major industry events. Sending a press release during these times might mean it gets overlooked. The subject of embargoes is also touchy.
Journalists may entertain them, but there’s a catch – there needs to be a good reason for an embargo or an added incentive, like an exclusive interview or additional information.
Consider where your audience gets their news. Target journalists from those media outlets. Sounds easy but you’d be surprised how many people automatically think of big national newspapers first, when the people they need to reach are more likely to browse an online trade publication. So do your research.
Also, hosting press releases on your company’s website is savvy, making your company’s milestones easily searchable. And if you’ve gone through your ‘whys’ in enough detail and realised that you’re expecting your press release to help you with link building, then posting your news on a newswire platform will be the thing to do.
When you’re writing a press release, stick to the basics. Follow the standardised format (read up on the inverted triangle form) and use simple language. Keep it concise and always provide it in a non-PDF format. Sprinkling in multimedia—photos, videos or infographics —can make your press release more appealing.
Then add a quote, or more if you must, but do try to keep the number of quoted people down. This quote should shed light on the announcement’s implications for the reader rather than expressing the spokesperson’s feelings about the news.
And a gentle reminder: unless it’s earth-shattering news, journalists might reserve your announcement for their regular features, so be patient in waiting for those dreamy headlines.
To sum this up. In the realm of public relations, crafting a press release is an art of packaging information in a way that not only appeals to journalists but ultimately serves the intended audience. Handle with care!