1. Thou Shalt Have a Relevant Topic
This one will get you kicked out of heaven in a hurry. Check the topic again to see if what you’re writing about is relevant news to your readers and not just a fluff piece for your organization. If it seems like more of an advertisement, then it doesn’t deserve a press release.
This is where I remind clients that they need a “hook” or an “angle.” Why is your news relevant or newsworthy? Why will anyone care about it? If you cannot answer those questions, your news is likely NOT worth sharing.
2. Thou Shalt Be Truthful
Badly run public relation campaigns ruin all our reputations, and nothing hurts worse than a press release that blatantly lies. Even stretching the truth a little can cause serious harm to your cause. Just don’t do it.
Stick to the facts and their relevance to your target audience.
3. Thou Shalt Have a Great Headline
I know this is repeated on every press release advice site, but that’s for a reason. There are so many bad headlines out there, whether way too wordy or bad/irrelevant information or any number of errors. Whittle down your headline to be nice and succinct, with just enough necessary information to reel your readers in.
Every media expert I talk to speaks of overflowing inboxes. You MUST be catchy in order to get a journalist’s attention.
4. Thou Shalt Have a Great Lead Paragraph
Just as important as your headline, your lead paragraph needs to knock your readers’ eyes all the way through the rest of the press release! No more than two sentences long packed full of necessary info that will guarantee continued interest.
Again, make sure it is catchy and keep it relevant to the target audience AND to the journalist to whom you are pitching.
5. Thou Shalt Obey the Five Ws
The who, what, when, where and why of the piece must be answered, preferably as soon as possible. Since it’s a news item, you will follow the inverted pyramid method; important information at top, less imperative items at the bottom.
It’s just like writing a book report or current events summary in elementary school. Give the basic and most important info.
6. Thou Shalt Know Your Audience
Knowing your audience includes knowing what style you’re writing the piece in, what your readers would most be interested in learning, where the go for information and how they like to receive it…in print, online, etc.
7. Thou Shalt Use Real Language
Keep the thesaurus safely shelved next to your bed and stick to using everyday language. Press releases need to be understood by the common folk (unless you’re writing for English professors worldwide) so if you feel the urge to right-click to replace some words to make yourself sound smarter, resist!
I couldn’t have said it better!
8. Thou Shalt Have a Strong Closing
While press releases are news items, they can also be seen as short stories. And every short story needs a good ending! Don’t let your press release just dissipate into the ether at the end, give it a strong closing that wraps it all up for the reader.
I often share photos and links to related articles or information that back up my press release. If I am pitching a person as an expert or thought leader, I attach a copy of his/her bio or one sheet and a link to their website.
9. Thou Shalt Proofread
Read it. Read it again. Go through every sentence and whittle them down until they’re iron tight. Check your grammar. Check it again. Maybe your end should be the middle and vice-versa? Have someone read for clarity. Then have someone else read for clarity. Check for spelling errors and comma splices.
Some of my personal pet peeves are typos, spelling errors and improper grammar. Yet every once in a while I will notice a typo in one of my releases. I can’t emphasize proofreading enough! Errors make you look unpolished and unprofessional.
10. Thou Shalt Proofread Again
You didn’t do enough, so check it again!
Enough said on this topic!
11. I would actually add an 11th commandment and recommend sharing photos and/or links to video with your release, especially if the outlets you are pitching to have a visual element.
Obeying these commandments might not land you a ticket to Mount Sinai, but they will help you attain better results for your press releases.