I haven’t been a magazine or website editor for several years now, so when talking to a few editors recently I was curious to see if much had changed. They agreed that most companies sending out press material have finally got to grips with online technology (well, it’s only taken 15 years). It’s a rarity apparently nowadays to get press releases as a PDF document from which the text can’t be copied and pasted, or to receive an email with 50Mb of photo attachments.
However, writing styles haven’t changed, and the same criticisms of press releases (or pitches to individual journalists) can be made today as when I did presentations on the subject in the early 1990s. Rambling prose which doesn’t get to the point until the second page is still common, as is the irritating “boilerplate” paragraph which tells you all about the company before the story.
As most press releases get published on a company’s website now, you’d have thought that things would have been sharpened up considerably. Journalists have always preferred a headline which sells the benefit to the customer, because in turn, it tells them why they should run the story. As the customer now sees the press release online too, this becomes more important than ever. And, as always, the first paragraph needs to give the complete who, what, when, where and why.
But perhaps the biggest advantage which you have over 20 years ago is that it’s so easy to provide supporting material. It’s an opportunity which journalists complain isn’t being exploited enough. Every press release should be fully annotated with links to the product page on the company website, background technology articles and supporting images. Put yourself in the position of the journalist, think about what else they might need when considering your story, and provide it to them. Prospects and customers reading your news directly will appreciate it too.