Happy Halloween! How to Write Press Releases that won’t Frighten Reporters

Posted on October 23, 2017

Happy Halloween! How to Write Press Releases that won’t Frighten Reporters

By Allen Haynes, Director, Public Relations

There are nearly 5 PR people for every 1 reporter, according to a recent report by Pew Research Center. That’s a gain of nearly 2 PR people per reporter over the last decade. The growing imbalance has created a hyper-competitive landscape in achieving positive media coverage simply because more PR people are pitching more story ideas to fewer reporters.

That’s why writing – whether for media relations, social content, speeches or any message that needs to influence an audience – remains a crucial skill. Effective PR writing must first persuade a gatekeeper, like a reporter, to write a story. And then it must persuade the end audience in a meaningful way.

That being said, there’s no shortage of reporters who will tell you they encounter a lot of scary writing, especially basic press releases. In the spirit of Halloween, we are sharing a few of our tips for writing strong press releases that won’t frighten journalists – and will keep great stories alive:

1. Keep your news hook out of the graveyard.

The most interesting news should be communicated in the very first sentence. A buried news hook that lingers in the middle or at the end of a press release might as well be in the graveyard – because your editorial opportunity is dead on arrival.

2. Don't disguise your lead. (Or "lede")

The very first sentence of a press release must be compelling – not disguised in bland language or clunky, technical jargon. Every word of the lead should break through clutter and grab the reporter's attention immediately.

3. Unnecessary detail is downright frightful.

A press release doesn't need to tell every single detail about a story – instead, it should tell the most important aspects in a memorable, high-level format that is easy for reporters and their audiences to understand. Put unnecessary details in the coffin until a reporter asks for them. Or, if written detail is a must-have to ensure accuracy – like in B2B PR – use fact sheets and backgrounders to accompany the release.

4. Believe in the magic – of AP Style.

As a rule, the best press releases and other media materials are written in AP (Associated Press) Style. Not only does this format present story ideas in the manner in which reporters are accustomed to seeing them, it also eliminates the potential distraction for editors to stop reading your press release – and to start editing it.

5. Enchant reporters with strong quotes.

Quotes in press releases like "We are delighted ..." or "We are so excited" ... and "We are thrilled" are usually terrifying. (Of course the news is delightful/exciting/thrilling – a press release is being issued about it!) Instead, use quotes to provide new insight and angles that support the broader story.

So this Halloween (and year-round), treat – don’t trick – a reporter with your news release.

Note: Duffey originally posted this article in October 2014, but the magic of press releases still rings true today.

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