PR is important, but it’s even more important that it’s done correctly. When your press release doesn’t include these five key elements you won’t get that key editor to take notice of your company, and your public relations’ efforts will fail. The next time you’re called on to produce a press release, keep these five things in mind.
Is There Industry Interest?
Like it or not, a press release needs to interest an editor in the first paragraph or it won’t make the cut. It’s the same advice given to job applicants about their resume attracting the attention of time-crunched human resources managers.
Editors often see 50 or more press releases each day. That means you have only a couple of minutes to make an impression and pique their interest in your story. And your story needs to be important and of interest to your industry – it can’t be simply a marketing message or company celebration. (You may want to read my prior post about what makes an editor take notice of your story.)
How Strong Is Your Headline & Lede?
Every good press release starts with a strong headline. In many cases there is also a subhead that provides a bit more information. These two key items are followed by a compelling opening lead paragraph. That means clear, concise language without errors – and a message that gets right to the point.
For instance, if your company is launching a new product – with a breakthrough technology that has significant performance advantages over other competing technologies – the editors should know that by the time they have read the first sentence of your press release. It’s even better if they know this from just reading the headline and subheading.
Yes, it does seem elementary, but you’d be surprised how many press releases “bury the lede” – the main reason for the story. Instead of getting right to the point, they begin with a rose-colored recap of the 20 years of innovation at the company, followed by a pointless quote from the CEO about how proud they are of their storied history.
Editors won’t spend time searching for a story in your press release. Spending time on what amounts to fluff from the beginning is a sure-fire way to prevent an editor from learning about your big news.
Good Writing Counts
If your press release gets straight to the point, that’s a good first step. But you need to make sure the release itself is well written and devoid of grammatical and spelling errors. Like it or not, the people you are presenting your story to write and edit similar content every day. Most have very high standards when it comes to the written word, so be sure you don’t distract them from your story with poor writing and typos.
While you might make the first cut by putting the important stuff first, your news still needs to compete with other press releases to make the final cut. Make sure the writing throughout is clear, factual and devoid of careless little mistakes. Details matter to editors. They want to know when they call to request an interview that details matter to you, as well. Industry editors want to know you will get them the information they need for their story.
Help the Editor Serve Their Readership
To interest an editor in your story, it’s vital you understand what good editors consider the most important part of their job – serving their readers. In the trade publishing world, good editors are keenly attuned to their readers.
Editors know exactly who their readers are and what their jobs are. They talk to readers regularly to get feedback and to better understand their business challenges. Using this information, editors select which stories to cover based on how interested their readers will be in the topic, and whether it affects them in ways that may have an impact on their job or business.
As an editor for more than 20 years, I’ve often fielded calls from companies who have sent me a press release and acted like it was my job to serve them. The implication was that the best way for me to do that would be to publish whatever information they happen to send me. While it is true you can find so-called news outlets out there who will publish anything (often for a price), the best coverage you can get for your company’s news is in the pages of publications that people in your industry read regularly. Trade publication information is presented clearly, objectively and is of real importance to the industry.
Getting the Editorial Green Light
Trade and industry publications and their editors should be your prize. Peppering their inboxes with trivial press releases or poorly-written press releases that don’t get to the point quickly almost always ensures they will eventually treat all your press releases like email spam. Delete!
However, if you consistently provide industry editors with good, solid press releases that are well-written – even if only a few times each year – you will gain their trust and significantly increase your chances of getting regular coverage for your company.