Most press releases hit the junk email folders of journalists without ever getting opened. How can you ensure your news grabs the attention? Gemma Guise of journolink.com explains how to craft the perfect press release.
Getting a journalist to pick up a press release is much the same as a dating agency getting the perfect date. It’s all a matter of getting the DNA right and presenting it in an irresistible way.
The DNA has several key strands. There must be facts, something different, and a compelling reason to read more – all put together in a way that a journalist can decide if it warrants more than a three second skim read.
And that’s where to start. The “teaser” is the three-second summary paragraph that’s the critical hook. It’s the bio on the dating site that tickles the senses. Spend time perfecting it, then test it out on the most cynical person you know to find out whether you have captured what the underlying story is, but tickled the senses too. If not, you won’t capture the good looking date.
That done, the body of the release is, in a way, less important. By now, if still hooked, the journalist is looking for article content. So more facts (not just a product promotion paper!) and reasons why your story is different. A survey for instance, a topical event, or a solution to an issue.
Basic factual information is enough for journalists as a starter – if more is needed they will be in touch. It is much better to be focused on the key message you want to land, than it is to write pages and pages, which will not get read and – at worst – convey the wrong story.
It is also important to provide a quote if possible, ideally from a recognised and independent person who has knowledge of your sector or region, along with a quote from the “owner” of the press release too.
For the journalist looking for content to fill their pages, a picture or graphic is frequently the difference between getting printed or not, so add a link to a good, relevant graphic.
Then go right back to the start and frame your headline. This is the dating site picture. It’s the immediate attention grabber, and must do exactly that. In no more than ten words you have to conjure up provocation, something edgy that will lead the reader genuinely to want to see what the underlying story is. It is emphatically not a boring fact, but a brave statement that is more spin than safe.
With the headline hooking, the teaser tempting, the copy capturing, and the graphic gluing the interest, don’t forget to provide direct contact details, out of hours as well as nine-to-five. Journalists often work strange hours, and the spokesperson available when it suits the journalist is often the spokesperson in the article.
So, there you have it – the perfect press release!