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6 Best Practices for Press Releases

Steve Surdez

So, you've got some exciting news to share.

Maybe you've made a critical new hire that will empower your business. Or perhaps you've moved into new office space. Or even better, you've won a new, gamechanging client.

While your fingers and your teams keyboards are likely burning from punching out LinkedIn posts, company Facebook page announcements and rapid-fire Tweets, don't forget about the benefits of a more traditional press release.

Remember, an integrated marketing approach (or Unbound approach as we like to call it here at Illumine8) utiltizes a multi-faceted approach to reaching audiences, grabbing their attention by meeting them where they live and work.

If you haven't written a press release in a while- or ever-no worries, we're here to help with 6 press release best practices that will get you up to speed in no time:

(1) Think About the End Goal of the Press Release First

Knowing your goals before writing the press release is important. Here are a few tips to use:

  • Think about if you want national media coverage, local coverage or you just want news to post to your website to project activity to your existing audience and to pump up SEO.
  • If you're pitching to national media, or even prominent local media in a mid-size market, you need to ask whether your release is really newsworthy. Not every thing you want to share is newsworthy, and even if it is, it might not be timely for a particulary publication. 

Your best practice approach will remain the same, but if you think ahead, you could save money, time and frustration by avoiding pitching some releases to the press and simply focusing on developing releases to populate your website.

It's highly important to identify what has a shot at getting picked up for publication and what does not so you can allocate the right resources and tailor the approach to each.

(2) Don't Self-Promote

Press releases should stick to the facts. You're not writing a sales letter or promoting your company. If you feel the need to promote or embellish, what you think is newsworthy likely is not. Here are some things to think about when writing your first draft:

  • If your topic is newsworthy, be objective, describe the who, what, where, why and how of it all, and be done.
  • Nothing will turn the media off more than blatant self-promotion in a press release.
  • Let the news speak for itself and let it be judged for what it is. Don't try to make it something other than what it's meant to be.
  • Stick to the facts even for press releases destined for your website's news page.
There's a time and place for marketing, branding and promotional messaging- a press release is neither the time nor the place.

(3) Focus on Your Opening

The quality of your headline and opening paragraph is critical to your press release getting picked up by media outlets. Again, this is not the time for "clever" headlines, fluff or marketing-speak. Remember: 

  • It's essential that you are succinct and that you clearly capture the essence of your news in your headline and opening paragraph. 
  • Some media professionals get hundreds of press releases pitched to them in a work week, depending on the prominence of their publication.
  • If you don't deliver what they want to see and make it easy for them, your release will not get picked up.

Check out an example of a strong, factual press release headline and first paragraph here.

(4) Include Quotations

Your press release becomes far more compelling and newsworthy if you can obtain quotes from senior leadership in your organization, or, if it's a high-profile hire annoucement, from the newly hired employee.

What this means is you need to get out there an talk to people. At this stage you know the subject matter of the release, you've gathered your facts and have a general idea of the content structure. Now, you need to both humanize it and provide the media with soundbyte nuggets that make their work easier. Think about the following when you are obtaining quotations:

  • Quotes are a key opportunity to inject some branding language about your company, culture and vision for the future.
  • While it cannot beat anyone over the head, it's okay if your CEO weaves the new product launch or new hire into a narrative about your company's differentiators. Again, it has to be subtle.

So get out there and interview a few key people.

The quotes you gather will add gravitas to your release, put a human voice to the topic and take advantage of this "soft sell" space to do some subtle brand promotion.

(5) Include Stakeholder Information

After the meat and potatoes of the press release is done, include a concise paragraph about each of the businesses involved. In some cases, this might just be your organization. In others, where partnerships are involved, you will need multiple paragraphs.

These paragraphs should be purely factual, and tell the media professional the name of the entitiy, where they're located and what they do, along with links to their primary website.

(6) Include Contact Information

Include contact information at the conclusion of the press release for the media professional. This will give a clear indication of whom they should reach out to with questions or for more information. 

The key here is to make life as easy as possible for your media contact. Any hurdles in such a fast paced environment can prevent your release from getting picked up.

Well, that's it: 6 best practices for writing press releases. Now get to writing and pitching. You'll do great.

If you have additional questions, need assistance with integrated marketing, of if you have a ton of great news to share but no time for press release writing and pitching, we're here to help.
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