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How to Create a Press Release, Part II

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 subject of your press release is really news. As noted in a previous Write Good!: The Blog blog, 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 even 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 neatly folded on your desktop, a sharpened No. 2 pencil in your pocket protector – the novice communicator will ask, at this point, “Soooooo…what do I do now?” Hmmmm…a fair question. Give Write Good! 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. Make sure that it engages the readers, doesn’t talk down to them but uses snappy phrases. So, go ahead and do that. Yes, right now! Write Good! will wait.

Sorry! Write Good! is just messin’ with ya’. You should have seen your face!

When constructing a press release, public relations professionals draw on 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 long 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 news 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.

 

In future Write Good!: The Blog blogs: “How to Write an Attention-grabbing Headline before the Oncoming Comet Smashes into the Earth!”

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