Press release writing tips

Press Releases should be genuinely newsworthy. That’s the bottom line. If they’re not, and the client (or the press release distribution service) feels that the writing is blatantly trying to sell a product or service, then your release is likely to be rejected.

Editor-friendly presentation
Always double-space the copy, as this will allow the client to scribble notes between the lines, if needs be.

Headlines
Press release headlines differ from other types of headings used in copywriting pieces insofar as they must always be helpful, rather than playful or teasing. For example, this sample headline: Danish Life Goes English is certainly noticeable, but for a busy editor it’s weak because they would have to work to find out exactly what the press release is about. It is simply not descriptive enough.

Opening sentences
Like headlines, opening sentences need to seize attention. With press releases (and most Direct Mail copywriting) always begin with a short sentence, and then build from there.

Let’s inject some pace into a sample opening paragraph now:

300 new jobs will be created in July when the Danish Life Insurance Company opens its new UK office in Northampton.

To become instead:

It’s all happening in Northampton! Three hundred new jobs will be created there in July when the Danish Life Insurance Company opens a new UK office.

Pay careful attention to every opening paragraph of every release that you write, and look to kick things off with a short grabby sentence (as a kind of hook), before developing the piece from there.

Beware of repetition at sentence and paragraph beginnings

Danish Life Creates Jobs at New Northampton Office

Danish Life Insurance Company is opening its first UK office in Northampton, creating around 300 new jobs in a variety of roles.

Danish Life launched in 1867 and is Scandinavia’s ninth largest insurer. It sells various types of insurance, including house, contents and car cover. In the UK, it will sell these products through intermediaries.

Danish Life Chief Executive, Alf Rasmussen, says: “As a business, in the past few years we’ve enjoyed considerable growth. Progress has been driven to a great extent by our excellent new insurance products.”

-Ends-

See how all three paragraphs begin in the same way? That is poor writing! Try to vary words and phrases as much as possible, as this will help to make your writing even more engaging from first word to last.

Confident writing
Always keep your nerve and resist littering your text with numerous exclamation marks, as this comes across as amateurish (and reveals a lack of confidence in a writer).

Quotes & Photos
A press release without a quote feels dry; therefore, try to include a quote (or maybe even two!) where you can.

Quick tip: In copywriting, never change or add to a quote; to do so
could actually lead to litigation.

With press releases, including a photo helps (quite literally!) to give the company being profiled a human face. Also, including photos relating to products and services is always a good idea – seeing is believing, after all.

Notes for Editors section
With a press release, always include a (headed) Notes for Editors section at the end. Using bullet points there will help editors scan more quickly:

– Ends –

Notes for Editors

  • Danish Life Insurance Company specialises in vehicle, property, and home contents insurance
  • The company was established in 1867 and has assets worth £300 million
  • 300 new jobs will be created when the Northampton offices are opened
  • It is the ninth largest insurance company in Scandinavia, and is Danish owned

Red herrings
Some information supplied by clients is best left out of finished releases:

  1. Promoting Danish Life as the ninth largest insurance firm in Scandinavia – this is unlikely to add anything to the copy
  1. Telling readers that all the Danish Life managers will be given Volvo company cars – who cares?
  1. Mentioning a competitor by name. Hmm… Probably best not to give other companies vying in the same market free press coverage

The bottom line is: A copywriter’s job is to sift through the info in the brief, pick out the important points, and isolate/eradicate the irrelevancies; the golden rule being: if it’s not newsworthy, cut it!