I’m going to try to put together a series of brief posts about PR practices, and thanks to my current diet of cold medication and coffee the best name I could come up with is PR Shorts. I know that sounds like a pair of cut-off jeans that will never give you a straight answer, but maybe you guys can suggest something better… or I’ll wait until the medicine wears off.
Today’s PR Short is about press releases. There’s definitely an accepted standard for the format of a release, so let’s talk about that quickly. In most cases your press release should look something like this:
The Title should grab the journalist’s attention. Usually you’ll want this to quickly explain the main point of the release, but in some cases you may want to just put a potential story headline in there. Let’s say you’re pushing a new emergency-diaper technology that cleans the baby’s butt if it drops a deuce (again with the underpants theme… curse you, medicine). Your title could be, “Hankypants Introduces New Diaper Technology to Avoid Poopy Accidents” (the straight-forward one) or, “Never Clean Baby Poo Again” (the less direct option). I probably could have avoided a poop joke there.
The Subtitle is optional, but I’d recommend making use of it. It allows you to briefly offer more info about the announcement. If you were to use the Never Clean Baby Poo Again header, for example, your subtitle could be something like, “Hankypants Introduces New Diaper Technology that Cleans Infants’ Bottoms.” A lot of journalists will really only read your title and subtitle; if they’re not interested at that point, they’ll likely just move on, so you may as well give them as much info as possible in those lines.
The Intro Paragraph gets to the point. It will usually begin with “Edmonton, AB, Canada – September 9, 2009.” — the location and the date of your announcement. Then you’ll want to explain what the announcement is about — “Hankypants, the leading creator of leading-edge diaper technology, is excited to announce its latest model, the PooFree 3000.” You can provide a bit more info, including availability, pricing, etc.
The Detail Paragraph(s) will just include some more info. In some cases you may not even want to provide more info — your intro may have already provided enough detail, but I’d recommend using this space if you can. It allows you to talk more about the product itself, your company, unique features of the product, etc. Don’t get overly verbose with this or any other paragraph, though — the more you write, the more time the journalist has to just stop reading.
The Quote is also optional, but it allows you to show off your executive team to the world and to push your corporate messaging a bit. Particularly if you’re announcing a partnership of some sort, quotes might allow you to include an external perspective on your company. Having someone else (preferrably someone reputable) in your release saying, “We’ve evaluated the PooFree 3000, and the product is, without a doubt, the pinnacle of diaper technology” will add some legitimacy to your announcement, and makes it a bit less about patting yourself on the back.
Your Boilerplate is just a description of your company. Talk about past products, your strengths, corporate ideals, etc. And be sure to include a URL for more info.
Pretty simple, right? If you have any questions about writing effective press releases, feel free to comment or email me!