Press releases are still one preferred communication tool for marketing communications managers. Yet, many professionals fail to use them, launching promotional texts editors don’t care about. I want to share Signalis Group’s guide to produce a press release media editors may want to pick.
Why is it essential to write a guide to issue press releases? Let me tell you a story.
A few years ago, I worked for a B2B publishing company. I had to take the press releases customers sent us and turn them into informative, non-commercial texts. Back then, it was a lot of work.
Eleven years later, little has changed. Today, I work as a Public Relations strategist at Signalis Group, a B2B digital marketing and PR agency serving industries such as Security. I like to read press releases brands send over the wire. Sadly, some brands still send news releases like we were still in 2010.
They continue issuing self-centered texts with no news angle. Such documents end up filling editors’ inboxes and then receive the infamous “delete” treatment.
This article will guide you to identify five key characteristics of a good press release.
Are Press Releases Still Important?
As I stated at the beginning of the article, press releases are still a staple for B2B marketing communications, but they aren’t the only resource comms pros have.
Cision, one of the giants of the PR software industry, released in 2021 the second version of their State of The Press Release, where they include valuable information they collected after analyzing 100k press releases and interviewing some of the PR pros that were behind the creation of those releases.
In the report, 74% of the surveyed professionals said that the frequency of their press outreach remains the same or increased compared to pre-COVID levels. Also, the report states that for most professionals, the distribution of press releases has been helpful to raise the visibility for brands and products.
The report also says that 83% of the PR professionals interviewed by Cision plan to distribute press releases with corporate news, giving less priority to topics such as Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI), Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), and Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG).
From our point of view at Signalis Group, press releases are still important. To give you an idea, 50% of our time at the agency goes to Public Relations activities, and inside those activities, distributing press releases consumes between 20-25% of our time.
5 Must-Haves of a Good Press Release
I want to start by saying that the list of attributes I’m about to mention is the result of our day-to-day Public Relations activity analysis.
Our approach is to develop value-based relationships with the editors we work with. That method has allowed us to ask editors what they think about the press releases they receive.
Here’s our quick guide to writing press releases based on that information.
In journalism, we say that “when a dog bites a man it isn’t news, because it happens often. But if a man bites a dog, that’s news”. Apply this idea when you’re about to launch a press release.
When we’re producing a press release for a customer, our goal is to define if what we’re about to distribute is relevant. Another option is to ask the question, “what impact does this information have on the industry?” If you can’t answer this question, chances are editors will find the release irrelevant.
One recommendation: in many cases, a new angle can add newsworthiness to a press release. Launching relevant releases will help you build trust-based relationships with editors and reporters.
2. Short But Mighty
Editors are very busy people. A large portion of their time goes to research, complex research.
Traditionally, before writing a story, editors spend considerable time reading what other professionals wrote about the same topic. They also skim news to add context to the piece. Why am I telling you this? To show you they have no time to read extensive press releases loaded with corporate jargon and self-promotion.
A press release shouldn’t be longer than one page. Also, some corporations have a large boilerplate (the section that goes at the end of the press releases and describes the companies mentioned in the text) that extends the press release. I recommend exploring producing a short, more concise version of the “About” paragraphs.
Finally, don’t forget that press releases fall in the business writing category. Be simple, straightforward, but bold and relevant. If you are concise, your release will have one less reason to be deleted.
3. Perfectly Written
A good news announcement shall have no grammar mistakes. Period. I’ve worked at editorial departments, and I can tell you how sad it is for the editors to receive a poorly written press release.
What is a correctly-written press release? A clean, polished document, respectful of the grammar and orthography rules and without typos.
Why is it important? Your brand’s reputation (as well as the PR practitioner’s) hangs in the balance.
What can you do to launch media announcements without errors? Have an extra set of eyes reviewing your bulletin. If you don’t have anybody around at that moment, consider using Grammarly or the Hemingway Editor.
4. Reaches Many Media Outlets
As I said a few lines above, press releases are mostly brand awareness tools. And, as PR experts, our responsibility should be to reach as many editors or reporters as possible.
And when I say as many as possible, I don’t mean sending news releases indiscriminately to media outlets unrelated to your industry. Do your research and find all the channels related to your company.
Why should we reach as many editors or reporters as possible? Simply because it increases our chances of being featured in more channels. We all want to be in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal or CIO, just to name a few, but the reality is that reaching several small channels will also help our customer’s brand achieve its awareness objectives.
5. Is Sent by an Experienced PR Pro
PR professionals play an essential part in the coverage a press release receives. Even if a news release has the first four elements of the list but is handled by an inexperienced PR professional, it may not obtain the results your brand expects.
Why are experienced PR professionals essential? There are three main reasons why an editor picks a press release:
The brand issuing the news: brands such as Apple, Amazon, Google, Samsung, and Facebook, among others, receive a lot of coverage because what they do impacts their followers.
The news: if what you’re saying is newsworthy, your release may still get attention even if your brand isn’t as big as the companies we mentioned above.
The relationship with the editor/reporter: sometimes, the professional relationship between a PR practitioner and a news editor may facilitate the inclusion of the bulletin in the outlet (but if the release is irrelevant, our editor friend may still reject it).
A good PR practitioner understands these elements well and knows how to use them to get your brand the attention it expects.
I hope these tips help you next time you launch a news release. Remember, they are still a relevant, valid marketing and communications resource. Still, as with marketing in general, you have tough competition, and editors are busier every day.