Press Release: The Basics Part I
Many people mistakenly believe PR stands for “press release;” it doesn’t. But the press release is still one of the most commonly used PR tactics. Yet despite being around since 1906, the press release is still one of the most misunderstood documents in marketing.
As the name implies, a press release is a document intended to release (provide) information to the press. It should answer the five fundamental questions about news that helps reporters craft stories: who, what, when, where and why (and sometimes how)? When used properly, the press release becomes the springboard to news articles which have a most unique ability to bring credible messages that expand brand awareness and create product/service desire.
A press release is not an advertisement. It’s not a sales slick. It’s not a training manual. While the document has spawned a new tactic called “press release marketing” (which will be discussed in a later blog post) and can be effectively used as a sales tool, producing a well-written, properly constructed press release will only serve to improve your brand reputation among your most important audiences.
If you’re going to issue your press release on a newswire, you’ll be paying by the word, so make every word count! Here are some tips to producing quality press releases:
Know why are you issuing a press release in the first place
The purpose of writing a press release is not to issue it; it’s to generate some sort of activity that benefits your organization. The list of good reasons to issue a press release are long, and often include announcing a new product or service, a new hire, moving into a new vertical or geographic market, a major customer win, a new strategic partnership, among others. Your first steps in writing your press release are pretty simple: think about who you want to tell your news to, what you want to tell them, and what you want them to do after you told them.
Why should people care?
Reporters write for their readers. If their readers won’t care, the reporters won’t care – in other words, your announcement won’t be newsworthy. You may have just revamped your website, and it’s really cool and a really big deal to you, but is it newsworthy or something reporters will think people will want to read about? No, probably not.
To make a reporter interested in your news, answer the question: why should their readers care? Craft this answer as a benefit statement that tells your audience what’s in it for them in your announcement. Keep asking yourself “why?” When you answer the question, ask it again. “Why?” Something like this:
- Our audience is going to love our new cultivation technology! Why?
- Because it easier for them to grow their crops, and that’s important! Why?
- Because growing crops more easily saves money and makes it possible for our customers to expand their operations! Why?
- Because demand for product is going to outpace the availability of product!
Result: Our new cultivation technology makes it easy and affordable for growers to meet the growing demand for cannabis.
You get the idea.
Add third-party involvement
Who outside your organization can weigh in on your benefit statements? Do you have any happy customers who could lend a quote? What about market data from industry research firms to provide context as to the size and scope of the market problem your organization is working to solve? There are easy ways to add credibility to your announcement by adding third-party participation in your press release.
Cannabis industry analysts regularly produce market reports and publish information into the public domain. If a company puts information in a press release, you can feel free to cite it, but make sure you properly attribute your sources. Here are a few resources where you can find reliable market data:
Writing the perfect quote
Whether you’re writing a quote for one of your executives, one of your customers or someone else who has an important contribution to your press release’s newsworthiness, follow these tips to write a quote that adds value and doesn’t merely add to the word count.
- Try and keep to three sentences
- Write the quote so it can be used together as a paragraph, but also so each sentence can stand on its own
- Don’t waste words by having the person you’re quoting be “happy,” “pleased,” “proud,” or any of these other fluff words; the world assumes that if your organization wasn’t happy, pleased or proud, you probably wouldn’t have issued the press release
Make sure you follow journalistic style in your press release. The best guide in the Story Lab’s opinion is the Associated Press Stylebook, which is what a majority of journalists use when writing their articles. Make their job easier by using the right style guide.
Don’t forget, you’re paying by the word. So after you write your first draft, review it again and again to make it punchy and to remove extraneous words. Don’t make phrases longer than necessary. For instance, don’t write “cultivation of the cannabis plant” when you can write “cannabis cultivation.”
Mastering these basic steps isn’t too difficult. And once you do, you’ll find more people reading and responding to your press releases.