How to write a press release that will get you in media

In 2012, I wrote about a book about writing press releases. Today, that book is this exceptionally long blog post (so you might want to download the free PDF[1]).

Shortly after I published the book, it was picked up by the University of Sydney[2], where it was taught as part of its Master of Strategic Public Relations[3] course. That was quite something considering I wrote the book to be practical, accessible to any business owner or marketer who wanted to write a media release.

The book has been for sale on Amazon[4] since 2012, and I recently saw a secondhand copy of the first edition for $183, which is also quite something, considering you can read the book in a single sitting.

It’s good, but not even I would pay $183 for it!

Housekeeping before we write a press release

Throughout the book I use “publication” to mean newspapers, magazines, websites, TV and radio shows, blogs, podcasts and any other medium you might try to reach with a press release. This saves you ploughing through a few thousand extra words and some painfully constructed sentences. The principles of a good press release are identical regardless of the medium at which you’re directing your information.

Also I will use “press release” primarily but interchangeably with “news release” and “media release”. I favour “press release” because it’s the most popular term despite the obvious anachronism. My actual preferred term is “media release” because there are more media out there than ever before. There’s a lot to recommend “news release”, too. It’s a reminder that your press release should contain something resembling news or at least be of the moment.

Finally, this book is about how to craft a message to someone who has an audience and persuade them you have have something interesting to say to their audience. I use “journalist” mostly because this is a book about press releases and journalists are the traditional target. You might, however, be after a blogger or a podcaster. The advice in this book applies equally to those audiences, so substitute “journalist” for “blogger” or “podcaster” and you’ll be on track.

Once through

I hope ideas will jump into your head as you read this. I encourage you to make notes as they come to you; but you should read the book through completely before you start writing your release. The sections build on each other and you’ll find it easiest to start when you have the whole picture.

Case studies used in the press release examples

The examples given in the book are a mix of real ones and ones that I’ve invented to demonstrate a point. Where the examples are real I’ve changed, or left out, enough details to protect the anonymity of the person and company concerned. The PR industry doesn’t have a great reputation for ethics but it doesn’t pay to kiss and tell. Some of these examples involve a few characters to whom I give names. They are fictional but based on real clients and experiences I have had.

George — the author

Not long ago I was asked to consult on the promotion of a self-published book. The author, “George”, was towards the end of a long career in psychology in which he had coached high-profile business people. He had developed some new and interesting theories in the course of his career. Those theories and how he came by them were the subject of his book.

Doug — the lawyer

“Doug” is a composite of many of the lawyers with whom I’ve worked on PR. Doug is a senior partner in a large law firm. He is successful with clients at the big end of town but he’s under constant pressure to bring in even more business. He and his partners see media coverage as important in raising their profiles among potential clients.

Kathryn — the pastry chef

“Kathryn” is a pastry chef who has worked in some of the best restaurants in the country. Having had a child, she wants to stop working nights and have the flexibility of her own business. She’s moved back to her hometown to open a bakery and patisserie on the high street. She doesn’t have a budget for advertising but wants to spread the word that she’s open for business.

Bonus material for writing a press release

You will find some useful bonus material for writing a press release here[5]. It includes a flow chart you can use to check your process and a worksheet on writing the perfect press release.

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