If managing the details of your company’s marketing campaigns isn’t enough, you could be at the computer until well past midnight if you must shoulder the added task of writing a stream of press releases.

Producing successful press releases demands a different skill set. Read “10 Keys to Writing Winning Press Release”for real-world advice, including:

  • Writing successful headlines
  • Crafting quotations that work
  • Determining the best length and timing for your press releases

10 Keys to Writing Winning Press Releases

If managing the details of your company’s marketing campaigns isn’t enough, you could be at the computer until well past midnight if you must shoulder the added task of writing a stream of press releases.

Producing successful press releases demands a different skill set. Here are 10 tips to help:

1. Know your products inside and out.

Before starting, create a single sentence describing what your product or service does. For example, don’t say “Acme Controls is a leading motion sensor company.” Instead say, “Acme Controls is a resource for engineers whose designs help America’s leading commercial properties eliminate wasteful water consumption.” If you can’t summarize your product in one sentence, you won’t get to first base with an editor.

2. Make your headlines sing.

Many editors say they take about eight seconds to look at a press release. You’ve got to grab an editor’s attention and you can do that with a good headline. Your headline should state what the product is and what is important about it (e.g., new release, major upgrade). Instead of saying, “Acme Controls’ Sensor Systems Now Easier Than Ever to Adjust”, say “Acme Controls’ Sensors Now Governed Using Consumption Monitoring Software, Aiding Drought-Stricken Dallas Hotels.” Editors may be intrigued.

3. Every release needs the basics.

Include basics such as:

  • Product name
  • Version number
  • Name, street address, phone and Web site of company
  • Contact name (person handling inquiries from the press), including the phone number and e-mail address
  • Secondary contact name
  • Product or service availability date

4. De-emphasize quotations.

The problem with using quotations is that editors do re-writes. Often, they’ll never use a quote. More importantly, quotes take up space you could better use to describe the product. If you must have a quotation, talk about a new benefit. For instance, you could say that Acme Controls President John Smith says each sensor “links directly back to the monitoring and measurement software, enabling building operations managers to make up-to-the-second checks on water consumption. This can spot excess user locations and help lower overall operating costs.” Here, an editor has at least learned a new feature or two.

5. Communicate user benefits.

Focus on telling editors why the benefits of your product deserve their (and ultimately their readers’) attention. Answer this: what will this product do for a reader? How will it make their work easier, faster or less costly? What’s important to readers are the benefits they will receive, not the features you claim. Likewise, editors like to know what distinguishes your product from the competition. Don’t be vague! Explain the solid benefits found in your product but not in offerings from competitors.

6. Use “bullet” lists.

If your product has several new features, bullet lists make them stand out. You can always explain each feature later in the release, but get to the meat first. What are the key new reader benefits found in your upgrade and what are the distinguishing characteristics? Arrange them in a list. When an editor is on deadline, the last thing they want is to be forced to wade through lots of text. Bullet points help editors assess whether they are interested.

7. Follow one rule for technology releases.

If you’re announcing a technology rather than a product, be sure to include contact names at companies currently incorporating your technology. The same rules apply to them, especially those involving responding to phone or e-mail inquiries.

8. Length and timing are everything.

No one is going to read a press release that is eight pages long. Keep it to no more than two pages. What’s more, don’t issue a press release until you are certain your company is going to produce or have the product available within the next six months. And don’t send out the same press release every month for the next six months hoping it will be picked up.

9. Send your press release early.

Remember that magazines have long editorial lead times. Many are working today on issues whose cover date is three months away. Therefore, the earlier you let editors know about your product, the better prepared they are to coordinate coverage. They don’t want to publish stories about products not yet available or write about products released months ago.

10. Be prepared for calls.

Some real horror stories can occur when editors receive a press release that sparks their interest, but are told the press relations contact is on vacation or in an all-day meeting. Make every effort to answer the phone yourself. Voicemail and telephone tag can be annoying to editors. Also, have a backup. Tell an assistant that call volume may increase because a press release is about to be issued.

It’s smart to have your product manager standing by and available to answer questions. Know beforehand how you would respond to questions about pricing, as you could get them. Lastly, develop a written list of potential questions and how you will answer each; keep a copy next to telephones. It will help add consistency to your responses, no matter who answers the call.

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