The S.M.A.R.T. Guide To Press Release Writing

This guide offers practical suggestions and insider tips for entrepeneurs and business owners on communicating their message to the right targets using the right information.

The Who What, When, Where, Why of a press release

Who should write a press release?
Well, for starters, someone with professional level writing skills and ample public relations experience will probably be your best bet for writing a press release that meets industry standards. Although small business owners often write and distribute their own press releases, it goes without saying that if you haven’t written a paper since the 8th grade then you should strongly consider hiring a professional. PR Specialists are usually proficient writers, will be privy to current best practices and updated journalist formatting preferences.

What is a press release anyway?
Simply put, a press release is a tool for getting your message out to the world and for creating buzz about a new product, service, or business endeavor. Generally speaking, a release is sent to a specific journalist, group of target journalists or reporters who may be interested in writing a synopsis, feature, or simply listing the information in their publication.

When do I send a press release?
The best time to send a press release depends on the nature of the information. If you are announcing the Grand Opening of a new business then you would send it out 2-3 weeks before the big day so that journalists have an opportunity to plug you prior to opening. However, if you have just created a strategic alliance with another small business that you think may be interesting to a local business journal or community newspaper then carpe diem! Write it, edit it, and send it out.

Where do I send a press release?
This is a good question, and the one most often misunderstood by aspiring publicists and individuals attempting to get their message out. Press releases, quite frankly, should only be sent to people who care about what you are saying. If you send a press release about a new type of female hair product to the foreign affairs editor of a major newspaper then you are barking up the wrong tree, not to mention probably the wrong country. Press releases should be sent over the wire to your specific target industry, or to editors, reporters, and staff writers of print and online publications who cover topics related to your information.

Wait…Why do I need a press release?
Well, there is only one correct answer to this question: because your information is worth sending. To understand that loaded phrase, it is important to follow the S.M.A.R.T. guide below to find out whether or not you even need a press release, or if the press release you have is worth sending out for the world to see.

5 simple steps for creating a killer press release

Although it may seem cliche to say, press release writing truly is an art, and journalists are beyond savvy when it comes to deciphering a newsworthy piece of information from a fluffy, sorry excuse for a press release. Not only is it insulting to them when you waste their precious time by tooting your own horn about nothing special, but what’s worse…it makes you look bad. End of story. Bah-Bye.

If you really want to understand what goes in to writing a great press release, and to find out if the information you are sending is up to par, ask yourself these 5 simple questions:

Is your press release….
Ask yourself: is the press release written in simple, concise, factual language void of industry jargon and buzz terms? Can I get my point across in an understandable manner in less than 400 words?

M= Magazine Ready
A reporter or editor should be able to take the information from your press release and plop it into any medium without having to correct bad grammar, or call to get specifics on what the heck you are trying to say. The key is to make the journalist’s job as simple as possible. If you master this, then your chances of getting press placement will increase exponentially.

A= Attention Getting
This is actually the FIRST question you should ask yourself before you even dive into writing a press release. Another way of saying this is: is it newsworthy? While you may care about the fact that your company toy poodle is having twins, I assure you that no one else will.

Remember that last paper you wrote when you were in the 8th grade, and how you didn’t cite any of your sources but instead just pulled some information out of your, eh-hem, head. Remember how you got an F? Well, needless to say, things haven’t changed much since that day and journalists are much like teachers: they want to see that you’ve done your homework and that you have a thorough understanding of the topic on which you are writing. No, you don’t need actual citations in your press release, but you should definitely be prepared to answer in depth questions if the situation presents itself.

A timely press release is the first cousin of a researched press release. That is to say, a press release that is relevant to current events or cutting edge technology is more likely to get noticed. Remember, it is important to be aware of trends in your particular industry so that you can seize opportunities to create the news!

Rebekah Iliff is the Founder of Smart Girls Consulting, a boutique marketing and communications agency located in Los Angeles, California.