A press release is not an advertisement. A press release is a subtle piece of advertorial: a combination of advertising and editorial content. The point of advertising is to bring a product, service, or cause to the attention of a consumer, voter, volunteer, or contributor. It involves matching the right content with the right audience. A press release is in one sense an advertisement, but in this case your audience is the media. You’re selling them an idea for a story instead of a product or service, though, and it’s crucial you understand what journalists don’t want to hear.
Journalists get bombarded with press releases and follow-up calls. They hear rhetoric from public relations flacks, corporate executives, and consumers all day. They’re overloaded with information, but the key to grabbing a journalist’s attention is simple: Just tell them the facts.
These are the “five w’s” of journalism that I was taught on my first day on the high school newspaper. (There’s also an “h,” for “how,” but that doesn’t apply here.) The “five w’s” concept applies as much to writing a press release as it does to journalism. The facts contained in the press release are the most important thing. They must be presented in a concise, accurate, timely, and meaningful manner. These are the questions you need to consider when drafting a press release:
Who: Who the heck are you? Chances are journalists have never heard of you. Your press release should summarize your company’s history as concisely as possible.
What: What does your company do? If a journalist has indeed never heard of you, your press releases needs to clearly explain what product or service you offer.
Where: Where are you located? Where is the event located? Where is the product available?
Why: Why should a journalist care? Put yourself in the reader’s shoes when you ask this question.
When: Does your press release involve time sensitive information?
Each time you draft a press release, make sure the finished product answers all of these questions. To test out your skills, take the last press release you distributed and rewrite it asking yourself the questions based on the “five w’s.” Pretend that you’re a reporter reading the release. See if you feel the need to make any changes.
This article, written by Ben Silverman, originally appeared in PR Fuel (http://www.ereleases.com/prfuel), a free weekly newsletter from eReleases (http://www.ereleases.com), the online leader in affordable press release distribution. To subscribe to PR Fuel, visit: http://www.ereleases.com/prfuel/subscribe/.