What David Ogilvy Can Teach You About Press Release Writing

David Ogilvy was one of the original mad men. He was one of the most famous copywriters ever, and he built a huge, successful ad agency that’s still around to this day. Needless to say, there’s a lot we can learn all these years later from Ogilvy …even about press release writing.

In 1982, Ogilvy sent out a memo to all agency employees with 10 tips for becoming a better writer. Rather than go over all 10 points, I want to focus on some of the ones I think are most important for press release writers to pay attention to.

  • Write the way you talk. Naturally.—Press releases tell a story. When you tell a story to a friend, is it really filled with buzzwords and jargon? I doubt it. Writing the way you talk adds personality to your press releases, and it makes your story more interesting. No, that doesn’t mean you should be overly casual with the words you choose, but it does mean that you should strive for a human tone in your writing.
  • Use short words, short sentences, and short paragraphs—This helps create a fast, easy-to-follow pace for your press release. Reporters are busy, and they don’t have time to read a longwinded, confusing press release. By using short words, short sentences, and short paragraphs, you keep your press release scannable and easy to read.
  • Never use jargon-Ogilvy hated jargon. So do I. And so do reporters. Stuffing your press release with jargon makes it difficult to read, and as Ogilvy himself put it, it makes you sound like a “pretentious ass.” Ditch the industry jargon and buzzwords.
  • Never send a letter or a memo on the day you write it. Read it aloud the next morning—and then edit it—Trying to edit and proofread a press release right after you’ve written it is a challenging task. It doesn’t allow you to approach the press release with a fresh set of eyes and a clear head. You need to get some time away from the press release so you can come at it with a new perspective. You’ll be surprised at some of the mistakes you catch by doing this.

Do you think Ogilvy’s writing tips still apply today? 

This article is written by Mickie Kennedy, founder of eReleases (, the online leader in affordable press release distribution. Download your free copy of the Beginner’s Guide to Writing Powerful Press Releases here:

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