• Paul Webster

Press Releases: Getting Past The Editor

Updated: Jan 5, 2021

The first thing to remember when writing a press release is that it is not a sales pitch. A press release has to be written in such way that it is likely to be of genuine interest to the readers of the newspaper or magazine receiving it.

It has to tell a story. If it’s about a product or a service, then the theme should be about what the product can do to help, how it can solve a problem or make life easier for the readers. If it’s a trade magazine you are approaching the press release should be explaining how this product can save money, improve a process, make money and so on for the companies that read the magazine. It should explain how it does all this, perhaps describing the technology involved. It is still selling of course, but not in an overt way. Newspapers and magazines have to sell advertising to survive and they won’t accept press releases that sell when they believe the company concerned should be buying advertising space. In fact they may well react negatively to a company that persistently sends them ‘sales’ press releases.

Another important point to remember is that unlike the headline in a sales letter that has to attract the target audience in one hit, the headline in a press release has to attract the attention of the editor. It will never be used in the paper or magazine because they like to create their own headlines. Their headlines have to match the style of the journal and fit the space available when they come to do the page layout.

A further issue is to consider how you can make life easier for the editor. You never know, and nor does the editor when he first reads the release, is how much space will be available, if any. So it will be helpful to him, and make it more likely that he will use the item, if the essence of the story is contained in the first paragraph. The story can then be expanded upon with more detail, information about the people involved, dates, places and comments. This means that the editor can use the story to fill a small space or a larger one and if you can include one or two high quality photographs that will also go down well. The photographs should always be clearly captioned and if involving people, should have their names, companies, positions reading left to right.

Mentioning comments, most good press releases do include a comment from someone involved in the story and if can be someone well known, nationally for a major newspaper, well known in the industry concerned or well known locally if it’s a regional newspaper so much the better.

Always add the date of the release at the top and your contact details at the bottom in case the editor wants to check anything

Finally, as one business editor once said to me, don’t just send one press release and think you have done a good job. They have to keep coming, with new stories, new photographs, new ideas so that you can get your client’s name established as a leading player in his market.

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