You have big news that you want to share with the world, so you decide to write a press release. But you want to make sure you are leading with your best foot forward, right? I spoke with a few journalists and public relations gurus to pull together a list of press release best practices.
When you’re talking about press release best practices, I feel like this is a no brainer, but it’s critically important, so let’s get it out of the way immediately.
In the digital age of spell check and auto-correct, it’s understandable that people sometimes get lax about spelling mistakes. The computer or our phones are always cleaning up after us. But we all know these tools are not 100%. There are entire websites dedicated to hilarious (and often embarrassing) auto-correct fails. Bottom line – proofread your press release before it goes out. Better yet, have someone else proof it. You know what you intended to say, but a third party doesn’t and they are more likely to catch mistakes you’ve glanced over.
This also applies to personalizing your outreach – be careful to update the person/publication’s name if you are referencing them in your email and copying and pasting!
Last but not least, do not forget to proof your headline! You’d be surprised by how many headlines have mistakes that get overlooked.
Identify the hook for the journalist. Don’t make them work for it. While your main goal might be to get a story run about your new product, shockingly, the journalist that gets your press release does not have the same goal. Tell them why their audience cares about your news and you might just have a shot.
You’re busy and have a gazillion deadlines and competing priorities. But if you want to be effective, make sure you are sending your press release to journalists who actually CARE about the topic your press release is covering. Reaching someone with an off-base message today may lead them to ignore your next one!
Marketing and communications professionals LOVE to be cute and use humor. We’re so clever when we play with words! Front Page News Editor Erin Ayers warns to proceed with caution when you’re writing a press release. Erin commented:
“You might think you are being cutesy, but you can actually come across as rude. Make sure it’s reading as intended.”
Getting a second opinion can help you avoid embarrassment or getting tossed in the trash.
Erin shared an example of when using a play on words led to her to not run a story, as she found it insensitive to the topic being discussed. In the insurance industry, we find ourselves dealing with some pretty sensitive situations, where people’s lives are negatively impacted. We must remind ourselves that while a particular incident might be big news, there is still a human element involved as well.
Quotes should be succinct and substantive. Take advantage of the quote to communicate one of your key messages. Don’t drone on about how delighted someone is about the news you are sharing. Of course they are, otherwise you wouldn’t be issuing a press release to announce it.
Hopefully these press release best practices help you really nail the next release you send out! (And if it did, let me know by commenting below!)
In my next blog post, I’ll focus on best practices for working with the media and how to become a reliable source.