By George Chilton, Creative Director of Hubbub Labs, a content and digital marketing agency based in Barcelona.
Many startup founders dream of featuring in the media, but haven´t the slightest idea of how to go about getting the headlines they so want. There are a number of useful channels you can go through to see your name in print. In this Hubbub Labs Startup Academy post, we plan to show you how to write one of the most traditional ways of communicating with the media – the press release.
While some have prematurely declared the press release dead, the truth is, the majority of journalists still use them and find them to be invaluable tools.
First, what is a press release?
A press release is a targeted message to the media that sets out your company´s news in a clear and concise way. Journalists will use your press release as a basis to research and write a story. Have a look at some press releases on PR Newswire for some up-to-date examples (note that not all will be perfect models).
It´s important to remember that a press release is not a free advert for your company, and it must be newsworthy if it is to get any traction in the media.
What makes a press release newsworthy?
Few people outside your team, friends, family and clients care about your company very much. Unless your brand name carries a lot of weight, new hires, app releases, and funding rounds (unless it´s massive) will struggle to turn heads…or make headlines.
But you can turn this around if you do one or a combination of the following:
- Have a strong story/narrative
- Tie your company news into a trending topic
- Have a compelling mission
- Add value to the readership
When you have a Story that ties in to a Trend, offers Value, and links to a Media-Friendly Mission you might get the traction you want.
How do I write and structure a press release?
The average length of a press release is around 400-500 words. In terms of style, it should be clear, easy to understand, without using jargon, buzzwords, or over the top terms.
Innovative, world-changing, reimagining, the Uber of X, disruptive, unique…are all clichéd marketing terms that are likely to turn journalists off your story. While you can add humour and spark to your release, a matter-of-fact tone tends to work best.
When structuring a press release, imagine an inverted pyramid. Lead with the broadest and most important information; as the release progresses more details are added. A journalist should immediately understand the story from the headline. The rest then fills out context, detail, and comment.
Your press release needs to communicate your message as directly and simply as possible. Your headline will make it or break it: a good one will get a journalist’s attention and a bad one will get binned. Capture the story in one gripping sentence.
The strap line
Your strap line adds flavour to your story, a single sentence that offers wider context, information, or defines the company mission. It’s short, snappy, captivating and further sells your news to the reader.
The date line / first paragraph
Leading into the opening paragraph, the date line adds essential information, including location and date. The purpose of the first paragraph is to explain your announcement. While you can make it sound interesting, don’t make the mistake of being too complex, or of filling it with too many facts and figures.
As you progress you must decide which details are the most significant. the key details should be further up the release, added context must follow. For example, a new product launch might look like this:
- p.1: Announce name and show who the product is for and why it is valuable
- p.2: Outline product’s key features
- p.3 Show how product relates to company mission
- p.4 Include a quote from the CEO explaining why this is important
- p.5 Show how your product is different to the competitors
- p.5 industry stats, facts and figures, size of market, etc.
- p.6 End with a quote from the CEO summarising why the update is exciting and important
This section explains key information about the company. When and where it was founded, mission, size of user-base, website, etc.
This includes key contact information – preferably your spokesperson or founder.
In some cases you may wish to include images, videos, etc. but often these are best linked to from the release. Understandably, file attachments are often looked upon suspiciously by news organisations.
Look out for more Hubbub Labs Startup Academy posts on press releases, the media, content marketing and more.