Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Writing Rockin' Press Releases - Going Beyond the Obvious

I have a new project this week, writing a press release for a great couple who are opening a hip new cafe and eaterie in San Francisco in early November. Working with them has been a terrific learning process for me, and probably for them as well, as it became clear early on that they didn't know what I needed to write the release until --guess what?  I communicated with them what I needed!

Once I realized that I would need to provide very specific instructions, the process went smoothly and I had what I needed to move forward. In this case, there were certain basics that needed to be addressed, such as more about the owners and how they got the idea for the restaurant, for example. Next, I asked for more information, or even a web site link, about their chef, and the architect who designed the restaurant. Knowing the graphics were important, I asked for the restaurant logo, and also suggested a group photo of the owners with the design team and the chef, which they are working on for next week. Not sure if and how I would receive all this, as it turns out, I got some great information, including some colorful anecdotes from the owner on how he got the idea for his new hot spot, and even an entire logo sheet from a designer, including logos in a variety of sizes as well as tag lines and other graphic goodies I could incorporate into the release.

All this made me realize that there are probably many businesses out there that want to hire consultants like me to write press releases, but may not know how to go about it, or even what kind of information to provide. They also may not realize they have a goldmine of information stashed away that makes for great publicity, storytelling, and perhaps even a video sooner or later (I prefer sooner - those who know me know how I love video...)

While every release is different in the sense that the subject matter changes, there are certain basics that must go into a release. We have all heard about the essentials: who, what, when, where, why, and how. These are the basic components of a news story and a press release as well, but there is often more to it than that when it comes to writing a release that will really attract an editor, reporter, or blogger's attention. Here are some questions consultants can ask their clients to help get to the heart of the story and create some interesting angles for the press release, as well as tips for the writer to keep in mind:


 What is unique about this event, whether it's a publication, a business opening, a new program or partnership, or launch of any kind? This is what people will remember -- not most of the other stuff. How does your story show you march to the beat of a different drummer?


Often when people start talking or texting or chatting or e-mailing -- you get the idea -- they begin to tell a great story without even realizing it. Even when they say they have no story, turns out they do, it just takes them a while to realize it. The writing consultant's job is to identify the story and run with it. It can be used to frame the larger event, and to heighten the company's brand and image.  Think of it as your "About Me" page on your blog or website, with a snappy chorus and a cool refrain.


You've heard it before, and it's true. Every story has to start somewhere, and usually that's the local angle first. This is your baseline, or basic beat. How does your news affect the community? Answer that, and then you can address issues on the larger national scale, providing a context for your story.


Whenever I receive a press release and decide to write a story for my blog, e-news, or other purpose, the first thing I look for is an additional web site link, so that I can find out more background about the company. A web link obviously represents your online brand and identity, but also provides credibility for your business. might want to make sure you have even a simple one-page site up and running before your press release campaign. This is your main chord.


If you are sending out only one release, it has to resonate with all your stakeholders, meaning the press, of course, but also your members, partner groups, affiliations, advertisers, whoever is on your press list. You're going to want a round of applause, a request for an encore, and how about a standing ovation? You deserve it.


Your press releases need to be easily shareable on social media. Outside of pr distribution services and sharing your releases on Facebook, Twitter, and the like, the way you write the release has a lot to do with its shareability. I find that thinking in tweets helps, to make sure titles, headlines, and subheads, are concise and thought-provoking. You can also use keyword tools to check on SEO and make sure your titles and content will rank well for search terms. With traditional press fading into the background and citizen journalism taking over the media, your followers, subscribers, and friends, are now your backup band.


I just read that one of the elements of an effective blog post is surprise. An unexpected image, turn of phrase, idea, or suggestion, can really get your readers to pay attention. So try something different and surprise your readers with an interesting or even contradictory fact about your business that will surprise them. That just might be the hook that gets you the story.

So, these are a few ideas for now on writing rockin press releases, and I'm sure there are lots more. Let me know your ideas in the comments here, and rock on!

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