How to write a press release

06 Dec 2018

Liz Gatherer, company owner of Wedition, advises how to put pen to paper when you have news worth shouting about

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My role within Wedition certainly keeps me busy. On a day to day basis I find myself wearing many hats: content writer, editor, publisher, marketeer and PR agent to name a few. I am often writing press releases, when I feel there is a newsworthy Wedition-related story that one and all should know about.

In turn, I am frequently on the receiving end of press releases - PR agents working for wedding-related companies as well as small business owners often approach me as they would like me to feature their content on my blog. I will accept blogs if I feel that the information is relevant to my readers and will add value to my brand.

Here are a few top tips I have picked up along the way for submitting a press release:

Press release tips - is your story newsworthy?

Find something to peg your story on

For example, if you are a florist who is opening a flower shop, there is not really a highly engaging story there. But if you are a florist who suffers from hayfever and you are opening a flower shop, now there is a story.

Ensure local relevance

If you are approaching a local publication, be sure that your story has relevance to the local area.

Is your story on trend?

There’s not much point submitting your real wedding feature on your amazing Easter couple when it’s now December. Ideally, you need to submit your story about two weeks ahead of when you would like it to be published. Liaise with editors on timescales. 

Set up a photo opportunity for the publication

If you want your event to be featured, give the publication a call ahead of time and see if they will send a photographer. If they have gone to the time and expense of sending a photographer, the chance of your event getting great coverage is very high. Alternatively, ensure your event is photographed using your own contacts and submit the images after the event. 

Write killer headlines for your press release

Journalists, editors and content writers receive hundreds, if not thousands, of emails a week. They might be polite and say you have three seconds to grab their attention, but realistically you have half a second. Your headline needs to be punchy, to the point and relevant.

Be sure to include the words ‘press release’ or ‘story idea’

Flag up the intention of your email. If it is an event, you could include the word ‘photocall’ in the hope the publication will send a photographer.

How to structure your press release

Start with your killer headline, then follow with your ‘top line’, also known as the standfirst - your first sentence. This should be a summary of your newsworthy story in around 15-20 words and read like the opening of a news story. Think about how a radio or TV presenter might introduce the story, covering the 'who, what, where, when'. The ideal length of your press release is around 300-400 words, that’s just 3/4 paragraphs, include quotes (from yourself, a customer, a colleague) to make your story human, real and believable. Avoid the use of any jargon. Use the same language that your customer uses. At the bottom, you should include your contact details and company information. Your press release should be an email, not a PDF attached to the email. You can attach photographs as long as they are not large files, or you can write ‘photos available’ just before your company information.

Include statistics and sources

Back up any claims or factual information with the evidential statistics and sources. You can include these as a reference list of web links at the footer of the article. 

A final thought on writing a press release

Do a bit of research and find out the name of the person you think is most likely to be interested in your story. You can go on their company website or even try a search on LinkedIn. Find out when their deadline date is; it’s better to approach them with your press releases the day after deadline day as they will be happy and relaxed; contacting them on deadline day is not a good idea as they’ll be extremely busy.

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Liz Gatherer, company owner of multi-award-winning Wedition, publishing personalised wedding magazines styled to the wedding theme and colour scheme of the couple. A bespoke memento of the day that their family and friends will cherish forever, Wedition is a unique way to make their wedding stand out and bring their wedding story to life for their loved ones.

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