Get your message across
The point of a press release is to communicate your message. What you write needs to be both read and understood. Writing and translating (or transcreating) press releases is a constant challenge.
Every day, individuals are bombarded at home and in work with hundreds of media choices. They are forced to make decisions about what to read. Of those who are tempted by an article headline, about 60 percent will never read a single word of the article. From there, the drop-off only gets worse.
You need to think like a journalist. You need to fight to grab – and then retain – the reader’s interest. Too many press releases are overly long, repetitive, complex, and say nothing of interest (i.e., are boring).
- Make sure your story is newsworthy.
- Think about who your audience is – this will dictate the tone and language.
- Ensure your headline is short, punchy and interesting – this is the first thing a reader will see. Write it in the present tense.
- Your first line should summarize the story (in no more than 25 words) and read like the opening of a news story. Remember the five Ws of journalism: Who, What, When, Where, Why.
- Bullet point summaries are OK, but don’t repeat verbatim what is said in the body of the text. No one wants to read the same sentence twice.
- Keep the overall length to 350-400 words (one side of A4) or less.
- Keep sentences short and concise – this helps the reader retain the information.
- Write in the third person.
- Use quotes to provide color and insight, not numbers. Keep quotes short. You want your CEO’s words to stand out!
- Once written, print out and take a break. Come back and re-read with fresh eyes.
- Don’t write passive or long headlines (they should be no longer than 120 characters).
- Don’t include company boiler plate text. This will read like it was copied and pasted. Place this in an “About us” or “note to editors” at the end.
- Don’t repeat yourself – today’s audiences are time-short and won’t appreciate repetition.
- Avoid jargon and buzzwords. Time and again I see the vague, cliché terms and solutions. If you can explain in plain language what it is the company does, do so – your readers will thank you.
- Don’t forget to include a date and contact details. Basic, but sometimes overlooked.
- Don’t make grandiose claims you cannot back up. You want to be believed.
- Avoid BLOCK CAPITALS and overcapitalization in general. Words and phrases that warrant ca>ion”>pitalization will stand out more.
- Avoid exclamation marks if you want to be taken seriously.
- Don’t forget to have a colleague proofread your copy. Even the most experienced writers benefit from a second pair of eyes.
Guide to Capitalization (Dragoman Translation Tips)
How to Write an Effective Press Release (UK Guardian)
You Won’t Finish This Article (Slate)