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Five tips for writing an effective press release

December 7th, 2011 | No Comments | Posted by in PR

A catchy headline and easy-to-read presentation is often the deciding factor in a press release being read and followed up by a journalist.

Here are five tips for grabbing a journalist’s attention:

1. Limit headlines to 65 characters

This excellent idea was proposed by Chris Lake from Econsultancy who proposed the 65 character rule for headlines for all news stories.

It makes sense if headlines are 65 characters or less for several reasons: for Google search, Google News and for Twitter.

You can read Lake’s full explanation on how to optimise headlines using the 65 character rule at this link.

2. Three reasons to present a story as a list

1. Lists also do well, particularly on social media.

2. They encourage clicks. For example, would you be more likely to be tempted to click on a headline that reads “10 technical Twitter tips for journalists” or “Journalists can set up RSS feeds for tweets”.

3. They are easy to scan and read when in a hurry

3. Use words like “how” and “why”

Writing a post for Poynter earlier this year, Matt Thompson provides 10 questions to help you write better headlines.

He makes some excellent points, including this piece of advice:

Could it benefit from one of these 10 words?

When I’m stuck on a headline, I often refer back to this list of words: Top, Why, How, Will, New, Secret, Future, Your, Best, Worst.

Each of them has different merits. Many of them reinforce the advice I offer above. “Why” and “how”, for example, help to frame the headline as explanation (“when” and “what” also work well for this). “Top”, “best” and “worst” are natural partners with a numbered headline. Some of them tap into universal desires: We all want access to “secret” knowledge, and we all want to know the “future”. Words like “your” help me to reframe wonky, technical headlines around what they might mean to the user.

4. Consider writing a “how to” guide

“How to” guides work well online. People often search for an answer to problem and the search engine returns a guide as a result.

For example: How to: write the perfect press release for journalists

5. Consider presenting your release as a Q&A

For example: Q&A: Audioboo founder on the riots, Libya and ‘friendly competitor’ SoundCloud or Q&A: MediaCooler, a platform for freelance journalists to upload and sell features

This helps journalists to scan information and jump to points they are interested in.

Advised reading: How to write headlines that work for SEO

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#Tip of the day from Journalism.co.uk – original story ideas

August 11th, 2010 | No Comments | Posted by in Top tips for journalists

Be original: Media Helping Media has a long list of tips on how to find that original news story, without relying on press releases. Tipster: Rachel McAthy.

To submit a tip to Journalism.co.uk, use this link – we will pay a fiver for the best ones published.

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#Tip of the day from Journalism.co.uk – distributing press releases

November 19th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Top tips for journalists

Press releases: If you want to distribute a press release, check out Journalism.co.uk’s ‘how to’ video for our service PressGo. Tipster: Laura Oliver.

To submit a tip to Journalism.co.uk, use this link – we will pay a fiver for the best ones published.

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#Tip of the day from Journalism.co.uk – constructing the perfect press release

What do you want from the perfect press release? Add your ideas to Journalism.co.uk’s guide. Tipster: Judith Townend.

To submit a tip to Journalism.co.uk, use this link – we will pay a fiver for the best ones published.

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Crowdsourcing the perfect press release – an update

July 30th, 2009 | 1 Comment | Posted by in About us

We’ve published the results (so far) of our experiment to crowdsource a guide to writing the perfect press release, from the perspective of the journalists who receive them.

Here’s the guide as it stands at the moment – feel free to leave additional comments in the box below the article or email me (laura [at] journalism.co.uk) with your feedback.

The tips were received via a couple of blog posts, which can be read at this link to the first and this link to the follow-up post; responses to our @journalismnews Twitter account; and in direct emails.

Any feedback from the PR community would also be very welcome.

Update (July 31): Some additional comments from:

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Crowdsourcing the perfect press release: some follow-up thoughts

July 22nd, 2009 | 3 Comments | Posted by in Journalism, Media releases

Thanks to everyone who has commented, tweeted and emailed with their advice on writing the perfect press release – from the journalist’s point of view.

We’re doing this to create a guide for PRs, press officers and other communications professionals with no nonsense tips from those receiving the releases.

What’s been interesting from the responses so far is the degree of consensus regarding what should and shouldn’t be included.

I’d like to get your views on the following specifics too:

  • What information should the headline of the release contain?
  • Are summaries required or useful?
  • What is the optimum length for the whole release and for individual paragraphs?
  • Is including case studies useful?
  • Should images be supplied or on request?

Leave a comment below, email me (laura [at] journalism.co.uk) or send a message to @journalismnews.

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Crowdsourcing the perfect press release – help us out

July 21st, 2009 | 15 Comments | Posted by in About us, Journalism, Media releases

PressGo logo

Love them or loathe them, press releases provide the initial spark for a story for many journalists

Whether it’s the launch of a new product, a statement from a campaign group on a hot issue or details of new research, most journalists will be inundated with releases during their career (some more relevant than others, though that’s material for a wholly different blog post…).

For PR professionals and press officers they are one vital tool for publicising events and brands or creating buzz for a client.

Journalism.co.uk has its own service, PressGo, for matching press releases with journalists interested in 37 subject areas, from consumer goods and affairs to fashion, IT or the environment.

But to make this service more efficient for its users (that’s you hopefully), we want feedback on how to write the perfect press release. For example:

  • What details MUST it include and what’s superfluous?
  • What are common mistakes that press release writers make that rankle you?
  • What length/tone/format do you prefer?

We hope to create a guide – focusing on the writing, NOT distribution of releases – featuring comments from individual journalists as a point of reference for the PR community and we’d love your feedback, including your name and publication if possible.

Please leave a comment below, email laura [at] journalism.co.uk or send a tweet to @journalismnews.

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#Tip of the day from Journalism.co.uk – How to distribute press releases

January 5th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Top tips for journalists

PR: Not sure how to use Journalism.co.uk’s innovative PressGo press release distribution service? Watch our step-by-step video guide to see how it works. Tipster: Laura Oliver.

To submit a tip to Journalism.co.uk, use this link – we will pay a fiver for the best ones published.

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