The point of a press release is to announce news in such a way that it makes enough of an impact on the relevant journalist that they want to cover your story.
In the case of legal and professional services, the press release needs to be straight and to the point. It is up to the journalist – and not the press release author - to edit and ‘embellish’ the release to suit their particular publication or radio station.
For this reason, don’t use flowery language or colourful prose. Keep to the facts and only use opinion in the quotations. Keep it simple and, also, never assume the knowledge of the journalist. Explain every point that could raise a question. If the journalist doesn’t understand the release, he or she simply won’t write about it. And try not to use acronyms unless they are commonly understood (such as BBC, IT, NHS, etc).
A stock piece of advice is: start big, finish small. The heading should be short, punchy and attract the journalist’s attention. You can use a sub-heading, if necessary. The essence of the release should be captured in the very first paragraph – when, where, what, why, how. Open with the key facts of your announcement and don’t bury your news.
In subsequent paragraphs, you can add the other facts and interesting points. This is followed by an opinion-based quote, usually from a relevant spokesperson. Quotes should add to the story and not just say how brilliant you or your products and services are. Further explanation, supporting information and calculations for the release can be added in the Notes to Editor at the very end of the release. These Notes should follow your contact details (name, company and telephone, email contact).
Always remember who your audience is when writing the release. If it’s for a regional paper, for example, include things that are going to be of interest to the local community for that region. A press release for the legal trade papers, on the other hand, will focus on things that are of particular interest to lawyers and legal professionals.
In terms of format, use a standard layout, with a standard font and point size, i.e. Arial 10 pt. And be consistent. Don’t use bold, underlined or italicised text. And keep the main parts of the release to one page.
Finally, before you issue a press release, be prepared and ensure the following:
• A spokesman / the persons quoted in the release are available for interviews and are prepared for them
• Your release includes an out-of-hours contact number if possible
• Background information about your company, product or service is available should a journalist want this
• You have facts and stats available to support any claims you make in the release
Although it’s the bane of every journalist’s working day, it is always worthwhile following up with a polite telephone call to check that the journalist has everything that they need, or if they need a photo or any supplementary information. This will ensure that they have received the release safely and your news has been flagged up. However, do keep the call short and sweet. Respect the journalist’s time. They are often inundated with calls and any lengthy chat might only lead to irritate them.
This article was written by Vaughan Andrewartha from Chilli Communication
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Between us we’ve written for the UK’s leading national newspapers and broadcasters and have board-level experience at one of the UK’s top PR firms.
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Only then, armed with a deep understanding of your business and your future plans, can we create the perfect match – between you and your clients, you and your industry, you and your target market place – and come up with the best words to tell the world.
· Public Relations
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