Many businesses want to differentiate themselves from the competition, but oftentimes do not have a designated public relations team to manage the logistics of captivating the attention of the media and community.

One of the most important marketing skills for a business is the ability to differentiate from the competition while developing a solid PR strategy. The root foundation of this lies in the ability to write press releases that effectively communicate a message and a sense of urgency that draws reporters, news crews and radio shows to want to talk to YOU about your business.

Arguably, I work in an Industry (electronics recycling) that is not necessarily enlightening to the general public, but somehow I still manage to find a way to appeal to the media and general public. In the past year, I have found myself in conversations with more than a dozen reporters across five publications, three news camera crews, and have been on the radio five times –all in response to press releases that I have sent out to local new sources regarding ATR events and capstones. Below I outline some of the tricks that can help you successfully write a press release for your company.

Make the right contacts and know their publication deadlines

It is important to include ALL news sources when you notify the press of an event or capstone. If you do not have the time to do your own research when building a list of contacts from news sources, Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce members can access a detailed list at no charge.

Also keep in mind news sources get flooded every day with press releases. You may need to send the same press release out multiple times in order to see the story get picked up. Also look at publication timelines- Does the publication come out once a week, or less? Does the news source post stories everyday? If the media source has new content every day, then that will impact when, and how often, you send them your news release. If you reach out to Advance Newspapers or Rapid Growth Media, make sure you send them your press release weeks in advance in order to better coordinate with their publication schedule.

Another warning: if you send a press release out through email, do NOT use the blind carbon copy (bcc) field. Many servers at major publications are set up to block incoming messages that utilize this email field.

Appeal to Human Interests

If feasible, find a way to mold your story into a human interest piece. When writing a story, it is always important to find an angle—that is, a specific focus that the story will take.

Dig deeper and find a way to make your news release tell a story. Who is impacted by your business news? Is there an aspect of your story that can be told, in order to educate the general public? Are there particular stakeholders you can talk to, in order to make the story more interesting?

Make sure you cover the five-Ws

This may sound too basic, but sometimes when we have that last minute crunch and we write a press release on the fly, we may forget to leave out one of the most important details of the story – Who, What, When, Where, Why. When you complete your press release, do the final check and make sure you covered each of these areas in your article.

Use 3+ quotes to tell the story

One rule of thumb for articles written in the journalistic style is to avoid conveying opinion (unless the opinion is in a quote-format) and always use third-person voice in your news release. When you write a news release, talk to various sources and form quotes that tell the story for the reader. The press releases have three or more quotes, and oftentimes these quotes come from more than one source. More often than not, reporters may actually pull these exact quotes from the news release and incorporate them into their stories, so make sure these quotes are meaningful. Typically you do not want to include a quote that could just be paraphrased by the writer.

Pay attention to format

Try to follow a journalistic style when you write a press release. There’s a very specific format – called AP style – that journalists use when they write press releases.  Make sure you spend the time coming up with a catchy headline, and start your article with a catchy lead, or one-sentence introduction that makes readers want to read more. Writers for news sources will be more inclined to pay attention to a press release that is written professionally, and outlines all the important details for the reporter without having to do too much background research. Make sure you break up your paragraphs and use active voice. Furthermore, it has always been said that a reader should be able to read the first and last sentences of a story in order to get the gist of the article.

Another rule of thumb when following the journalistic style is to write in a style that can be easily understood at a fifth-grade level. If you want to improve your news release writing skills, then the best advice I can give you is to read more stories in this style. The more you read, the more this type of writing style will become natural to you.

Blog Post by Whitney Ehresman, Business Development Manager at Advanced Technology Recycling

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