How to write a press release


28 June 2013
A solid press release will generate interest, publicity and marketing opportunities for you and your book or writing project. Put together a professional press release with our top tips ...

A good press release will help you generate publicity on and offline. A well-written and concise press release makes the busy journalist’s life easy and sets out the story in a straightforward way.

A quick search on the internet will reveal pages and pages of tips about writing good press releases, but so many people ruin their chances by sending emails which end up in the trash folder almost unread.
If you’re used to writing in a more literary way, you may feel tempted to embellish your release with unnecessary verbiage, but the following tips should help you write and distribute a press release that picks up coverage.

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How to write a successful press release - ten top tips

Make life easy

Make your release stand out by using a clear, descriptive subject line for the email, summing up your news story. Think of this as your headline and your opportunity to stand out.

Answer the key questions concisely

Make sure your story is summed up in the first paragraph to grab the attention. If you are struggling, ask yourself what you would tell a friend first and take it from there.
Answer the key questions of who, what, where and when (and why and how if appropriate).

Why is it relevant?

Make it clear why your chosen publication or journalist should be interested in your story.

Avoid clichés, puns and overwriting

A press release is a factual document and not the place to show off your literary flair. Plain English is always the best option.

People like people

People are generally nosy and interested in other people, so do include a quote from you. It might feel a little awkward to quote yourself, but remember that once it is in print no one will think about the fact you wrote it yourself.

Check and double check

Journalists are sticklers for accurate language. Littering your release with spelling errors and grammatical or factual mistakes will lose you credibility

All’s well that ends well

Type ENDS under your last line to make it clear that the content for publication is ended. What comes after this is for the journalist’s information and not for publication. At this point it is important to remember to include your contact details so they can get in touch with you for further information or to arrange photography if required.

Don’t send a review copy

If you send a review copy it will probably end up in a pile of papers on someone’s desk, so don’t waste a copy. Let them know that a review copy is available, and if they’d like to see one they will ask.

Think laterally about recipients and check who to send it to

It’s better to send your release to a named person than to the generic newsdesk email account. Think laterally about possible outlets, such as glossy county magazines, university alumni magazines and local radio stations. Do you belong to any societies which print members’ news? Or does your subject matter relate to any special interest publications?

Don’t pester

PR agencies are notorious for the follow up call. ‘Just checking you got my release and whether you are going to use it?’ So if that’s what the professionals do, you should do the same, right? I would say not. It may be a controversial point in PR circles, but my advice would not be to phone to check if your release has been received or is going to be used. If it is suitable, it will be used. If they need more information, they will be in touch.

What can I use my press release for?

• Regional and local newspaper coverage – and don’t forget hyperlocal blogs too if you have any in your area
• Local radio interviews or even local television if there is a sufficiently strong angle
• Upload it to the news section of your website
• Post a link to it on social media
• Coverage in university alumni magazines or publications from groups you belong to
• Adapt it for use on a flyer to promote a reading you may be doing

Other ways to spread the word

Don’t expect your press release to do all the work for you. There are many other opportunities for promoting your book.

• People expect to be able to find information online, so it’s useful to create and maintain a personal website with pages for your books, an ‘about me’ page and maybe a blog section. There are many free options for doing this, such as Wordpress, or you could have a site designed. It’s best if you can update this yourself rather than needing to pay someone else to do it for you.

• Social media, particularly Facebook and Twitter, can give you exposure to potential readership and allow you to build connections with your audience and other writers. You could even make a promotional video and upload it to YouTube.

• Getting out and meeting people face to face is still important, so don’t hide behind your computer screen. Could you give a reading at your local library or bookshop? Writers’ circles and other groups are often on the lookout for speakers too.