5 Elements of an Effective Press Release

press_release_writing“The shorter and the plainer the better.” –Beatrix Potter

“Brevity is the soul of wit.” – Shakespeare

Minute by minute, a dizzying amount of data is created in this content-driven world. (Don’t believe me? Check out this infographic from DOMO )

And as PR folks, we’re under the gun to get the message across – clearly, thoroughly and correctly on behalf of our clients.

More often than not, this takes the form of a press release, the worth and future of which has become an annual debate. (But that’s another blog post entirely… For our purposes here, rather than dispute its inherent value, let’s focus on a few ways in which we can improve upon the content of future announcements we’re putting out into the ether).

I found a great article by Bill Stoller, The Ten Commandments of a Press Release, where he outlines his top ten “shalts” and “shalt nots.” In it, he argues that “when the recipient of a release focuses only on its content — and not on its creation — the writer has succeeded.”

Stoller’s point is an important one: Good writing allows the reader to focus on the message versus the medium. Although we’re taught to write one way growing up, I tend to think that the most effective press releases today follow these five guidelines:

  1. K.I.S.S. “Simple” works, but “short” is even more impactful in our content-crazed world.
  2. Sell the story, not your company. Yes, we know who is paying for the release, but that doesn’t mean anything if no one wants to cover it, correct? Take the time to create context.
  3. Remember your audience. Resist the urge to use marketing speak or pepper in industry acronyms. B2B or B2C, it’s doesn’t matter; keep it straightforward and interesting.
  4. Do the legwork. Again, know your targets and how they like to receive content. Social media savvy? Try tweeting a link to the release. Very visual? Scrap the words and make an infographic with your information. Make it easy for journalists to do their job, and they may just reciprocate.
  5. See number one. We’re following our own rules here.

Do you have any other principles for better press releases that you’d like to see added to the list? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

Persuasive Picks for the week of 06/28/10

Why We Check In: The Reasons People Use Location-Based Social Networks
Is it for the colorful badges or the chance of a spontaneous meet-up with like-minded people? Marshall Kirkpatrick explores these and other reasons why people are becoming obsessed with “checking in” on location-based social networks like Foursquare and Gowalla.

Social networking sites: 10 mistakes organizations make
Steven Overly from the Washington Post provides these helpful “back-to-basics” tips that highlight many of the things organizations aren’t doing right when it comes to integrating social media with their online marketing strategies.

ROI: Marketing’s Best Frienemy
Helena Bouchez explores Christopher S. Penn’s statement on a Marketer’s accountability of their efforts and how it effects the success or failure of the bottom line.

Why Your Release Might Not Make It In to Google News
Business Wire’s Joseph Miller explores several reasons why the carefully crafted press release you worked so hard on might not show up on Google News, and he provides some helpful tips to ensure that it always does.

Social Networking Affects Brains Like Falling in Love

This Fast Company post explains how Neuroeconomist, Paul Zak has figured out that social networking releases a chemical in our brain that triggers “empathy, generosity, trust and more.” Click the link for the full read, or get the 50 second run-down via the video below.