11 friendly tips to help PRs write effective press releases

Posted 20 August 2012 09:44am by David Moth

In general PRs and journalists have a decent working relationship, or at least I like to think we do.

But new research by Pressfeed highlights the fact that we have differing opinions over what should be included in a press release.

Almost half (45%) of the PRs polled said that visual elements with a news story are not important at all to journalists, while 39% said it wasn’t necessary to add images, videos or graphics to a news release.

But 80% of the journalists included in the survey said it was important or very important to have access to photographs and visual images and 75% wanted video content.

We get hundreds of press releases at Econsultancy, some good, some not so good.

So here’s 11 friendly tips on how PRs can make their press releases more effective, and more likely to be opened and read…

1. Spelling!
It’s an obvious one, but you’d be amazed at the number of press releases we get through with spelling mistakes in the subject line. A favourite of mine was one about ‘Ryaniar’.

We’re all guilty of spelling errors at some point in time, but a mistake in the subject line makes you look like an amateur.

2. Get to the point
When sifting through press releases of a morning I don’t have time to read loads of preamble, so get to the point in the first paragraph.

If your first two paragraphs go on about how your client is a ‘leading cloud computing software supplier’ your audience will quickly lose interest and dispatch your email to the recycling bin.

More often than not your client isn’t the story, the research they’ve commissioned is, so lead with juicy stats rather than the client’s biography.

3. Keep it short
Even if your report is groundbreaking stuff, I don’t want to read a massive email listing every single detail.

Try to limit the email to four paragraphs, maybe five at a push, and use bullet points to make the interesting stats easier to read.

4. Send me the report
If you’re sending out a press release to promote a new piece of research then make sure to attach the report or include a link to it.

It’s extremely frustrating and a waste of time having to go back to a PR to request a copy of the report. And the same goes for charts and images – if you have them, send them through.

Journalists and bloggers are generally up against the clock so we don’t want to waste time by going back and forth for content that you’ve hinted at in your press release.

5. Know your publications
As far as I’m aware we’ve never published a client-win at Econsultancy and a quick scan through our blog would tell you that. Yet I still get sent several of them a day.

While it may seem like a good idea to send press releases to as many publications and blogs as possible in order to ensure coverage, in reality it is likely to severely undermine your reputation if you keep sending out irrelevant content.

6. ‘Big News’ is subjective
What is big news to one person is irrelevant spam to most other people. Think hard before including any terms like ‘exciting news’ or ‘big news’ in the subject line.

7. Keep the headline short
Think about how the subject line will look to the recipient. Email clients have a limited amount of visible space, so keep it concise otherwise half the headline will get chopped off.

8. Bear in mind that people will be reading it on mobile
Smartphones are nothing new, so try to take into account the fact that most journalists check their emails on a mobile device.

This makes concise writing and punchy headlines even more important.

9. DON’T USE CAPS
Nothing says “I’m spam, send me to the recycle bin” quite like a shouty, capped up headline. And the same goes for exclamation marks!!!!

Caps make the subject line difficult to read and it looks unprofessional. Do you cap up emails to clients? I hope not. So why do it in a press release?

10. Avoid jargon
When writing a blog post time is of the essence, so I don’t want to spend ages translating press releases into plain English.

We have a list of banned words for the Econsultancy blog and if I had my way ‘learnings’, ‘reaching out’ and ‘thought leader’ would be at the top of it.

11. The personal touch counts
There’s a huge amount to be said for building a relationship with bloggers and journalists and personalising emails. If a press release is obviously just part of a massive mail merge then it’s unlikely to get read.

But more importantly, if I recognise the name of the sender and have had some contact with them outside of simply being included on a press release list then I’m far more likely to open their emails.

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