The 10 Commandments of Press Release Writing

For most folks considering PR as part of their marketing strategy the actual writing of a press release itself sometimes takes a backseat. Not so fast! Here are some rules to help you navigate the choppy waters of crafting the perfect press piece:

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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, and not crapping out a press release that has nothing to do with your company’s customer base. If need be, do market research before even starting the venture.

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!

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.

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.

10. Thou Shalt Proofread Again

You didn’t do enough, so check it again!

Did we miss a commandment of PR? What else do you have for us?

Mickie Kennedy is the president of eReleases, the press release distribution service.
Download a free copy of The PR Checklist, a must-read 24-point list of Press Release Dos and Don’ts. Follow eReleases on Facebook and Twitter.