This post was originally posted on May 23, 2016. It was updated in July 2022 with new/additional information.
PR is important, but it’s even more important that it’s done correctly. When your press release doesn’t include these six 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 six 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.)
When writing your press release always think “what is the value?” I’m not talking about the value to your company. You have to look at your news from the journalist’s point of view and the reader’s point of view. What is the story value to your customer and the industry?
You can write a press release about the fact that you’re expanding your facility, but what will get it published is if you can clearly state why that matters to readers and to the industry. What difference does it make to the industry? Why should the editor and readers care?
If you want to tell an editor that you’re adding to your facility, then tell them it’s because your share of the industry is growing. Tell them you are expanding because your customers are expanding. Tell them the industry is growing because of X or Y reason. Tell them you’ve acquired a different company and need the facility to incorporate their staff.
What’s not news is “We’ve just built a nice new extension on our existing facility and it has lovely architecture. We’re very pleased.” That has zero impact on the industry and your press release will be deleted.
Industry readers and editors are incredibly savvy. They know the industry. They know about industry problems. And they want to understand what is happening and how it might affect them or the industry as a whole.
That’s what your press release needs to achieve.
You can’t write a press release that simply pats you on the back and expect to get it published.
Pro tip: Be careful when writing a press release. Industry publications will cover acquisitions, investments, mergers, and projects. Those can be big news items. However, it’s not always possible for you to state who you made a deal with from a legal point of view.
That doesn’t stop you from writing a press release, though. Instead, talk about the projects involved without naming names. Talk about the impact your projects will have and why it matters to the readers.
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.
Every publication has its own house style and its own submission guidelines. Ensure you read those guidelines and follow them to the letter. You’d be amazed at how many people don’t. If a publication doesn’t specify, write in Associated Press (AP) style. It’s the industry standard and will be much appreciated by your editor.
Remember, the less work you give the editor to do on your press release, the more you improve your chances of getting it published.
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.
Include a Video or an Image
If possible, include an image or video. Press releases with an image get better pickup.
However, make sure your image or video is relevant and there for a reason. There is no value proposition in showing off your lab. What you could do instead is create an explainer video about a service or a process, with reasons why that matters.
Always, always look to provide value to the editor.
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.
Pro tip: If you only send out one press release per year, your chances of being noticed and picked up are slim. No one is looking for your news. What you can do instead is create a news flow for your company to increase the media’s awareness of you. You can seed future press releases with a smaller release before the larger one. What that does is serve notice to the press to pay attention. So, when you release the more important press release, they are paying attention.
If you have questions about your press releases, give Brandwidth Solutions a call. We’d be happy to help you sort out your PR.
Co-Author – Debra Harrsch
Deb founded Brandwidth Solutions in 2005 after two decades in sales and marketing roles for science-oriented organizations.
Co-Author – Chris Anderson
Chris Anderson has been writing for more than 20 years as an editor, storyteller and content creator for precision medicine and the life sciences.
Brandwidth Solutions serves the healthcare, life sciences, technology, and contract pharma industries. We work with companies that want to make the most of their marketing – who want their marketing empowered to help drive leads – and ultimately sales. If you want to move your product or service forward in a smart way, we want to work with you. Call us at 215.997.8575.