Quality is Job Three out of Seven!: How to Create a Press Release

The essence of quality press release writing is a sophisticated command of words because words are, like, you know…nice.

Yet even lacking a facility with language, anyone can craft an effective, well designed and informative press release by following a few instructions no more complex than those required to program a flight simulator.

First…or maybe second depending on where you started…determine if the topic of your release is really news. Reporters are busy people who require clear, concise, digestible content, preferably chewed into a thick paste, then regurgitated directly into their open beaks.

Before writing the first word of a release, even before you begin chewing it into paste, you need to assess whether the topic is newsworthy. Begin this by thinking like a reporter. Ask yourself if the content answers the classic 5Ws of journalism: Who? What? Huh? Me? and Could You Repeat That? If you can answer just two of these – and not even correctly – write your release, then apply for a job at the Chicago Tribune.

Prepared now to begin writing – hands folded on desk, sharpened No. 2 pencil at the ready – the novice communicator will ask, “Soooooo…what do I do now?”

Hmmmm…a fair question. Give us a moment to think while you go sharpen that pencil again.

OK, got it! Just create a lead paragraph that conveys in a single thought your most vital news, engages readers, employs snappy language, yet avoids clichés. So, go ahead and do that. Yes, right now! We’ll wait.

Sorry! We’re just messin’ with ya’. You should have seen your face!

When constructing a press release, PR professionals employ several simple writing tricks or, as they refer to them, “a five-year, multi-million dollar hierarchical communications strategy, Phase I.” Here are several:

Use active verbs. And hurry!

Active verbs are the Bruce Willis of a press release. They grab the reader, move the action along, and leave a trail of mangled, bleeding corpses in their wake. Passive verbs, while important, serve a press release more like Ben Kingsley in Ghandi – informative but, oh my God, so very slow and boring!

Avoid puffery (No! That has nothing to do with your fashion sense.)

Puffery refers to undue, false or exaggerated praise that “puff up” an image. Common idioms considered puffery include “Awesome!”, “Bitchin’”, “Bruce Willis” and “press release”.

Always include a quote, he said.

A quote humanizes a release, even if it’s a quote from your CEO, who is anything but. An effective quote is strong, opinionated, perhaps even provocative, but it must always stay on message. Compare these two quotes for a press release about a storewide sale:

QUOTE 1: “We’re reducing prices because that’s what our customers want,” said CEO Kevin Kevinson.

QUOTE 2: “My wife’s leaving me. Get that mike out of my face!” said CEO Kevin Kevinson.

Now, which quote is awesome and which is merely bitchin’? You make the call.