How To Write A Killer Press Release

Harvey Shore with a Logie
Harvey Shore – Producer of Simon Townsend’s Wonder World! and multiple Logie winner

EFFECTIVE MEDIA RELEASES.

(by Harvey Shore)

 

If you’re going to be any good at PR work, you need to start with a good PR Philosophy.

My PR Philosophy has always been:

“Every day, every newspaper, magazine, radio program, TV show, and website starts out empty. If you help them to fill up by using your brilliant content, everyone wins.”

However, to do that, you’ve got to provide the media with the right content … THE RIGHT STUFF.

 

How do you do that?

 

FIRST STEP:  DO YOUR RESEARCH.

You need to know your media … especially who the editor/producer/journalist is, what their contact details are, what material they mostly like to use, and what style they prefer it in.

Do your research properly, and know your targets well, and you’ll be in an ideal position to provide them with material they can immediately start using to fill their BLANK PAGE.  And once they start relying on your for content, you’re in a winning position.

 

SECOND STEP: LEARN HOW TO WRITE A KILLER PRESS RELEASE

The best press release should only be one A4 page long.   If you can’t say it in one page, you’re being too verbose.   Keep refining your story until you have it down to one page.

Then, you must include the following FIVE ELEMENTS in your one-page Press Release.

 

1) A NEWS LEAD:

Your News Lead is your opening statement. It is designed to GRAB THE MEDIA’S ATTENTION.   The News Lead is a HOOK.   It’s got to hook the media so they focus on your client’s message and feel compelled to repeat it to their target audience.

When you are asked to write a press release, you’ve first got to read through all the available information, and then decide what makes the most compelling News Lead – the best Hook.

Remember – every journalist or editor is asking just one thing from you:

“Tell me a story, give me a local news angle, touch my heart (make me laugh or cry), hit me in my pocketbook, make my stomach turn over, or grab my gonads.”

If you can do this in your News Lead, you’ll succeed in grabbing the media’s attention.

If you can do it again and again, as many times as possible in a one page news release in 30 seconds or less, you will always succeed in getting publicity.

Most publicists at most big PR firms don’t know this basic start point. Most also don’t have a real clue about how to consistently write news releases that get news coverage.   They write “PR Puff”, and most of it never gets used by the media.  Those people waste everyone’s time, and will never achieve success in the PR business.

If you start off by learning to write a great News Lead, you’ll join those who do succeed … because the skill of writing a great media release begins with your ability to produce a great News Lead.

So – You see how a News Lead is a bold attention-grabbing statement, designed to make the reader/listener stop and pay attention to the story that follows.   The News Lead is followed by:

 

2)  A SUMMARY:

After you write the short, punchy, attention-grabbing News Lead, you follow it with a paragraph containing your  NEWSWORTHY summary.

In just a few short sentences you spill the guts of your basic story. Don’t give all the details. That comes later. Just give a concise summary of what your story is all about. If someone reads just those few lines, they should have a good idea of what your story has to offer. Let’s say your News Lead is: “Simon Townsend’s Wonder World! Claims fifth Logie”. Here is an example of a possible summary: “In March, Simon Townsend stepped on stage to collect his fifth Logie. This year, for the first time, Simon is also going to reveal his secret for success in the annual Logie Race. In addition, his company is about to launch Australia’s first Logie Winner training course, designed by Logie Winners, for people who want to be Logie winners in future.”

This summary, when combined with the wording of the News Lead, grabs the reader’s attention and provides a sound incentive for people to “read on”.

If you can’t sum up your story in three or four sentences, you don’t know how to say what’s on your mind. Keep working on it until you can get a good outline of your whole story into one short summary paragraph.

 

3)  BODY COPY.

This is the guts of your media release.  It is basically designed to get you more coverage. Body Copy fills up the page with ‘The Five W’s and H’, plus your Quotable Quotes, and relevant-sounding Statistics.

Body Copy needs to address these basic questions: Who, what, where, when, why and How.

Then, you must include some good facts, quotes and statistics, and any other information which expands your summary to fill the page, and to give your message authenticity and credibility.

 

4) CALL TO ACTION:

The last part of your release is your “call to action”. What do you want the reader or listener to do next? This last part of the release is designed to convert the interest you’ve generated so far into some sort of action. Now let me give you a very clear warning. Don’t try to turn your CALL TO ACTION into a hard sell for some product or service.

This is no place to write, “Tickets for Wednesday’s play are $24.95 and can be charged using a VISA or MasterCard by calling 9789-9453.

If you write this, the media will see your entire press release as an obvious attempt to get free advertising instead of what it should be – ‘NEWS’ – and they’ll either reject it with the comment “send it to the advertising department” or they’ll just toss it in the bin! You don’t want that!

What do you want? You want the media to run your media release in the editorial section of their media outlet, and you want the resulting story to include basic facts that will enable the audience to follow up if they want to.

So, make your ‘Call To Action’ a carefully-written follow-up statement, which still has the look of basic news, while allowing the audience to follow up if they want to: “Simon’s new course “How To Win Logies and Influence People” starts next weekend at the Palais Theatre.”  That’s all you need. People will ring the Palais if they want more information.

 

5)  ALWAYS END EVERY PRESS RELEASE WITH YOUR CONTACT DETAILS.

Contact details are usually written as a single bold line at the very bottom of the page. This tells the media WHO write this Media Release, and HOW to contact them for more details.   It usually looks like this:

For More Information Contact: Harvey Shore on (02) 3456-7890.

Make sure you use the name and direct telephone number of a real person. Avoid a general switchboard number. The media aren’t going to search for you. They want a direct phone number.

 

Let’s recap the main elements of this advice:-

1) News Lead:  Grabs Attention.

2) Summary: A few sentences that deliver the real guts of your story in a compact way that compels your reader to get interested in what the entire release/story is about.

3) Body Copy (The Five Ws & H).  Plus Quotations and credentials.   The guts of your story, with quoteable quotes, facts and figures to add credibility and human interest, and to compel editors or journalists to give your story more space.

4) Call to Action – the final command line that tells readers what to do next.

5) Your all-important Contact details at the very bottom of the page.

 

AND IF POSSIBLE, ATTACH A PHOTO TO YOUR MEDIA RELEASE.

Harvery Shore with a monkey
Harvery Shore finally gets the monkey off his back

A good photo really is worth a thousand words.  If you include a good pic with an interesting angle or content, it will almost always win you more space. Take a careful look at the sort of photos in magazines and metropolitan newspapers. Headshots usually attract less space than a visually interesting photo. But even headshots are better than nothing.

And remember the CAPTION.   Whenever you send a photo to the media, always make sure it has a caption on the back. Don’t just write a caption on the back of the photo.  The best caption is a small typed piece of paper which contains the same heading as your press release, and the same contact information along the bottom, and in the middle add a line or two, briefly explaining what the photo is about and who is in it. This caption should be lightly but firmly taped or glued to the rear of the photo.

So – a well-written media release, sent to the right person and containing material that the right person is know to use, makes it easy for that person to do their job and fill their BLANK PAGE – and thus easier for you to succeed in the PR business, and produce results.

 

PR is all about creating positive public awareness and influencing attitudes.

The information above will help you achieve these twin aims on a regular basis.

 

Harvey Shore

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