Writing better press releases

Matthew Stibbe provides some excellent links and great advice in his post 62 ways to improve your press releases

I’ve had several conversations about press releases lately.  One discussion was along the lines mainly of why PR is still so hung up on the “traditional formulaic” approach.  Matthew includes some suggestions to question why and how you are providing information to the media.

But, accepting that the press release remains a primary tool, I’ve been pondering how to help students improve writing releases.

Most of Matthew’s advice is contained in study notes that we provide – and also in the exercises and discussion in teaching sessions.  Yet the produced work doesn’t consistently excite or seem like it will enthuse a journalist.  The same is true for most real-life releases. 

It isn’t hard to find information on what makes a good release – but this rarely seems translated into practice.  One of Matthew recommendations is to:

Employ a professional writer. Some PRs are good writers, many are ex-journalists. But it makes sense to use someone who knows the business. Just because everyone can write, it doesn’t follow that everyone can write well.

I believe that if you want to work in PR then you need to be a good communicator, which includes writing well.  So although I support employing professional writers in many cases, that shouldn’t be used as an excuse by PR professionals.

Maybe one of the problems is that good writing needs personal investment.  I believe you need to love language and be a keen reader in order to improve your writing skills.  Writing well is time intensive – editing and reflection are vital parts of the process.

Too little time is usually invested in writing good press releases, by in-house and consultancy practitioners.  It is often the case of quantity over quality – banging out a generic release rather than crafting information appropriate for a particular audience.

Learning to write well is also a life-long process.  It is important to be self-critical, and also seek the advice and feedback of other writers – not simply bosses who have poor writing skills.  I was fortunate to work with some excellent colleagues early in my PR career, who gave me good counsel.

I discovered that writing can be enjoyable, not a chore.  The more you practice, the easier it gets.  Good writing is at the heart of building relationships with others and there is a real buzz in seeing the impact of work that is well written. 

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Heather Yaxley

Heather Yaxley is passionate about PR - teaching the CIPR qualifications, lecturing part-time at Bournemouth University and running the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA). I'm undertaking a PhD looking at Career Strategies in PR. I love sharing ideas and knowledge - connecting news and views by blogging on public relations and educational developments, especially relating to accelerated and active learning. I'm also a published author, qualified trainer and experienced consultant.

5 thoughts on “Writing better press releases”

  1. Hundreds of press releases are unleashed every day – how can you keep yours from getting lost in the shuffle? CMS Wire’s Angela Natividad has just, ahem, released Top Five Tips For a Great Press Release.

    Rather than reading like a series of traditional PR do’s and don’ts, she points out a few key do-not-forgets, like synchronizing your website to the release and knowing your audience: "Respect their intelligence and they’ll respect yours," she writes. "Be brief. Be relevant. Drop the hyperbole."

    A brief, relevant, hyperbole-free article, useful for anyone from first-time entrepreneurs to longtime PR professionals.

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