Google “how to write a press release” and you’ll see a lot of examples that follow the same tired template.
Stock quotes. Company taglines that take up three lines of text. Headlines that mean nothing to someone unfamiliar with the company.
Thousands of releases hit the wire every day. They live on your website and on Google, serve as background for media, and are sometimes even reposted by media and bloggers. And despite calls for their retirement, press releases aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
So you might as well learn how to write a press release that interests and intrigues as much as it communicates your news. Here are six ways to craft a release people actually want to read.
KNOW EXACTLY WHO YOU’RE WRITING FOR.
It’s the first rule of communications: Know your audience. For press releases, that usually means one of three groups: the media, customers, or investors.
- The media: If you don’t know how your space is covered, who’s covering it, and what the big stories are, time to get reading. What would most intrigue media that write about companies and technology like yours?
- Customers: What does this announcement mean for your customers? Does your latest partnership grant them new opportunities? Does your new product solve a long-standing challenge? Speak to those needs – customers don’t care about what your tech can do; they care about what it can do for them.
- Investors: Know what’s most valuable to them and draft an announcement that speaks to the progess they’re seeking.
DON’T JUST DUMP FACTS. TELL A STORY.
Read a Wall Street Journal article. Now read your press release draft. Try to make the latter sound like the former.
Study how the Journal builds context around the news, communicating not just the facts, but why the facts matter. Everything you need to know is in the headline and first paragraph, but the details unfold as you go, facts woven together in a narrative that each paragraph builds upon.
So before you list the features of your new gadget or the offerings of a new service, think about how that gadget or service will be used, what problems it solves. Use the ”so what?” test to uncover the larger meaning of your news and find the story.
ADD VISUALS TO EVERY PRESS RELEASE.
Releases with images or video get three times more impressions and engagement than those with plain text. Adding multimedia should be a no-brainer. At the very least, include a link to press-ready images.
The rules of audience and story apply. What images will catch the eye of a reporter or customer in your space? The photos or videos that best tell a material or component story, for example, will differ from the images that best depict the finished product they’re part of.
SPEND MOST OF YOUR TIME ON A STRONG HEADLINE AND LEDE.
Eight out of 10 people will only read your headline, according to traditional estimates. So make it memorable.
Your headline should be short enough for Google to display (typically no more than 60 characters show up in search results), short enough to tweet (leaving room for a link), and yet intriguing enough to pull readers into the first paragraph.
Partnering with a widely known company? Place that name front and center. Have surprising or counterintuitive data? Use it to your advantage.
A successful headline will get readers to your first paragraph, but you better have something good waiting for them. Too many releases start exactly the same way:
[COMPANY NAME], [A LONG, BUZZWORD-HEAVY DESCRIPTION OF THE COMPANY], today announced …
Sometimes this sentence takes up the first three or four lines of the release. Find me a published article from a respected media outlet that does anything close.
The reason reporters don’t write that way is because it puts a gigantic roadblock between readers and the news.
What is the news and why does it matter? That’s what should come first.
FRESHEN UP YOUR LANGUAGE.
Every sector of the tech world has a specialized vocabulary, and using it is part of speaking to your audience. Knowing, for example, that “big data” is on the outs and “real-time data” is hot can help characterize your news.
But too often, tired expressions like “revolutionary,” “bleeding edge,” or “best of breed” are used as a crutch. Generic terms meant to lend gravitas to the announcement often end up doing the opposite.
We’ve all used them. I’m guilty too. But these kinds of words have one big problem: We’ve seen them so many times we’re numb to them. Our eyes glide right over them. The meaning we hope they’ll convey gets lost.
Swap them out with something fresh and you can breathe new life into your release and stick to readers’ minds. Try to get specific – how is your technology revolutionary or bleeding edge or best of breed?
SMASH THE MOLD AND TRY SOMETHING DIFFERENT.
Mark Zuckerberg posts company news to Facebook. Google publishes a blog post. Elon Musk announces new vehicles on Twitter. Chrevrolet got a lot of attention earlier this year for its press release written in emoji.
Unlike these companies, you might not have media staking out your social handles for a whiff of news, but you can still get creative with announcements.
Just make sure whatever you do makes sense for the news and your audience. The emoji press release, for example, targets young, emoji-literate car buyers, playing off the idea that words aren’t enough to express love for Chevy’s new car.
EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT HOW TO WRITE A PRESS RELEASE.
I’ve read a lot of press releases. Every one of them has had something interesting to say, but not all of them knew how to say it.
Press release templates won’t help much. But focusing on audience and story, and writing a release like the articles that appear in tier-one outlets will help surface the elements that engage readers and hold interest.
After all, what use is publishing news if no one wants to read it?