A pianist friend of mine wrote me today, asking:
|how do write press releases, john?
I need to write one for the new album.
the label director showed me his draft, and it looks boring.
are there books about this?
My friend suggested I pass the advice onto my blog, so here is what I wrote him:
I haven't written one in years, but I used to be good at it, and then I relinquished it to my employees, who did a terrible job.
Here is one I wrote, that is pretty good: [prlyr1.pdf]
The key item is "downloads of its applications for Linux have surpassed all other Unix-based versions combined" which was my angle to get into a "Linux is winning the Unix wars" story, which was starting to emerge back in 2001. Also note that I give a lot of substance in paragraph two. I also am piggy backing on the "will Sun survive Linux?" and "Oracle comes to Linux" news that were hot topics at the time. This press release is mostly not about us, but could be part of someone else's story.
Most releases tend to be filled with meaningless words, look at this one that my MBA wrote: [lyrpr2.pdf]
words like "announce" (duh) "leading" (leader?) "award winning" (sure) "utilize" (use?) just make you not read on. The article continues with lots of chest pounding about how great we are. Yawn. Where's the story angle? There isn't one here. What could we have done instead? We should have turned this release into a story about how crowd-sourcing of anti-spam lists (MAPS RBL) was the new battle strategy against spammers and that the corporate world was starting to embrace that approach. *That* would have made a good story!
Think of a press release more as an elevator pitch.
Your first sentence needs to get their attention, or you're lost.
The next few sentences are the meat, and need to sustain the attention. Flesh out the story idea, don't self-aggrandize. It's a press release, for god's sake, the reader knows your agenda.
If they're still reading, you're home free, and you want to give them some quotes that they can use in their own article. When the journalist calls, be sure to have a few more references in your pocket, that were not quoted in the press release, so the journalist can do the own 'research', come up with a distinct article, and not just reprint what every other journalist just received.
Short is better than long.
Pitching a story that isn't about you is a very good idea, so the journalist doesn't feel like a shill.
Hope that helps!