September 6 2012

The Art of Writing a Good Press Release

As a professional blogger I am inundated with press releases every day.  Every morning when I wake up, my inbox is overflowing with them, and I have come to realize after looking at thousands of them that hardly any one knows how to write an effective one.  So, I am going to offer a couple helpful hints that will keep your release from going directly to the trash folder.

Don’t Lead With A Story

As I don’t want to embarrass any company by name, let me just say, if your first two paragraphs are a set-up of some type of situation that needs a solution, I’ve stopped reading.  It’s fine to give examples of possible use scenarios for your product, but do it towards the bottom so I can choose whether or not to read it.  You aren’t writing the great American novel, you don’t need to lure the reader in, just tell me what the name of the product is, what it does and who is manufacturing it.

An example of a bad intro would be:

Coming home to a cold house is never a desirable experience.  You’ve already trudged your way through the snow and wind to make it home from work, and you want to be greeted by the warm embrace of your home …

I’ve already deleted you.

An example of a good intro would be:

The new Nitro Furnace 4400 by Warm Homes, Inc. will make sure that your home stays toasty warm on even the coldest winter nights due to its combination of Progressive Fuel Technology and Turbo Burn Modulation that runs through the Flux Capacitor …

Thank you.  I know what the release is about, I know who its from and I have a basic idea of why it’s different.

Don’t Be Flowery

I have no time to dig for gold (also known as facts) in the dirt (also known as your desire to use a metric ton of adjectives).

An example of bad way to convey the specifications of your product:

The robust Deluxe-In-Your-Face CMOS sensor will give the photographer the advantage of being able to shoot luxurious panoramic shots in a full-HD of 14.1 megapixels.  With photos of this size, space could be a concern, but thanks to the generous storage capacity of the dual slot SD card system, you have the pleasure of being able to store up to 32 GBs of photos via two 16 GB memory cards.

An example of a good way to convey the specifications of your product:

  • Deluxe-In-Your-Face CMOS sensor
  • Full-HD at up to 14.1 megapixels
  • Dual SD card slots, up to 16 GBs per slot

I’m not kidding, bullet point the information or I may lose interest in writing it up even if I made it past the intro.  I don’t have time to dig for the goods.  You can, however, be flowery if you at least have the information sorted out in an easy to reference manner.

Give Me Facts

If you are releasing more than one product, don’t give me “prices range from $X to $X”.  I’m not playing a guessing game here, people.  “Model X will cost $X, Model Y will cost $X and Model Z will cost $X.”  Is that so hard?  Sure I could figure out Models X and Z, but you want me to guess at Model Y?  No, I don’t think so.

And the thing that happened today that prompted me to write this post … where will it be sold?  You’re a brand new product, with no track record, so I can’t guess.  I could say “various stores”, but then I will get asked 500 questions from readers if this means online, brick and mortar stores, home shopping channels … I’m not going to promote your product if you can’t tell me, and by proxy my readers, where in the world they can buy it.

Make Your Quotes Sound Like More Than Another Ad

In general I don’t like using press release quotes, but will do so from time to time.

An example of a bad quote in a press release:

“We here at Furnace Express couldn’t be more excited about the Nitro Furnace 4400.  After 73 years in business, the Nitro Furnace is the culmination of our vast experience and forward thinking that will carry us on to another 73 years,” said Alan Cheesehead, president of Furnace Express.

I would never use this quote … ever.

An example of a good quote in a press release:

“I really feel that the Nitro Furnace 4400 is something my grandfather would be proud of.  The Cheesehead family has worked for over three generations with a goal of making the best furnace we could, and I feel we’re now one step closer,” said Alan Cheesehead, president of Furnace Express.

Why would I use this quote?  It’s more personal, it cut down the number of mentions of the product name and company name.  It sounds more natural, and more along the lines of how someone actually talks.

Ask Yourself Questions

When you’ve finished your press release, re-read it.  Does it answer the five W’s of journalism?  “What, Where, When, Who and How”?  What is it … where will it be … when will it be there … who made it/who needs it … and how will this impact the market?

This isn’t rocket science, folks … it’s a press release.

No, this isn’t the first time I’ve run this post. Why did I choose to republish it? Because so many people out there need to read it. And after some of the press releases I read today, I know a few people it should be sent to directly.

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