Five tips for writing an effective press release

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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