All of Publiqly’s Workflows follow the same five-step structure. We believe following these steps provides the most efficient way to write your news announcement. Here is an overview of our five steps with a short explanation:
- Preparation: In Step 1 we help you gather all the input you need to start writing your press release. We call this input your Building Blocks. For each workflow we have developed a unique Questionnaire, a list of targeted questions that you’ll need to ask your executives and sources to collect your Building Blocks. In this step you will also download your Template, a pre-formatted Word-document that serves as the starting point for writing your announcement. In the subsequent steps, we show you how to use your Building Blocks to fill in your Template and create your next press release.
- Connecting With Your Audience: Most press releases are written from an internal perspective. At Publiqly we want you to focus on the recipient of your announcement: your Target Audience. Whether you are targeting local customers, vendors or employees, this step helps you find a News Hook that resonates with your key audiences. If you’re writing an announcement about a sensitive issue, this step will offer you guidance on how to address the main concerns and speculation surrounding your news event.
- Writing the Top: Step 3 shows you how to use your News Hook to write the most important part of your press release: the headline and the first and second paragraphs. This is where you introduce the key facts (the “what, who, when and where” of your news), and connect with your audience by explaining why they should care.
- Writing the Body: In Step 4 we teach you how to write the third, fourth, fifth and sixth paragraphs. This is where you put the news into context, elaborate on “why” readers should care and provide more details that couldn’t fit into the first two paragraphs.
- Finalization: So you’ve completed your press release; now what? Here we help you edit, fact-check and broadcast your press release in five micro-steps. This is basically a checklist of items to do before moving onto your next press release.
We’re always trying to get better at what we do, and as you can imagine there are many ways to show people how to write press releases. If the structure above works well for you or not, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org
To differentiate writing a press release from a list of plain facts, we use two key, but different Building Blocks. You’ll use these Building Blocks to fill in Publiqly’s six-paragraph templates. Publiqly’s Building Blocks are made up of Facts and Narrative. Understanding the difference between Facts and Narrative is key to a well-written press release using Publiqly’s platform and also key to preparing to write a press release. Below we dig into our Building Blocks some more:
- Facts. This part of your Building Blocks are literally the “new” facts that you’re announcing in your press release. We differentiate Facts by the color green in Publiqly’s templates.
- Narrative. The Narrative are the facts that actually create the story and differentiate press releases written by Publiqly clients from press releases that read like lists of bullet points. Learning how to write your Narrative can be a challenge. Writing your press release’s Narrative gives you an opportunity to use anecdotes and examples that offer the reader a bigger, more creative and personal view of what’s going on in your press release — and within your company. This is your opportunity to make history and highlight the importance of your press release. Narrative is characterized by blue highlights in all of Publiqly’s templates.
Newsworthiness is the single most important factor in determining if your press release will get read. Below we’ve highlighted Publiqly’s Most Powerful News Hooks that will entice almost any journalist and capture your audience’s attention. If you can use one or more of these News Hooks you’ve got the foundation for a newsworthy press release.
- Tie it to a Trend. Riding the tide is a powerful tool in PR. Perhaps you can use your announcement to highlight your company’s involvement in a recent trend or news story that everybody is talking about. Are you changing your company name to focus your brand more on a hot industry trend? Use your press release to explain to your target audience why this is the next big thing. Back it up with industry statistics and if possible specific targets (e.g. this business will account for more than 60% of total sales by 2020).
- Bucking a Trend. Did you ever notice how a plot twist in a good novel or TV show keeps you up late at night? The same holds true for news and journalism. If the news media are all over a particular story, you can bet that if you came out with an announcement stating the opposite, you’ll have everyone’s attention. Journalists love the counterintuitive! Do make sure that you have a good story and plenty of facts to back up your contrarian view.
- What’s Your Superlative? Your press release should announce something that is the first, only, biggest, best, largest, tallest, smallest, newest, oldest, fastest, slowest etc. What’s unique or different about your news? Are you making a donation and is the amount of your contribution breaking records? Is this year’s edition of your company’s main event different because of an interesting new feature? Consider choosing that hook, but make sure to explain the “How” and “Why” of your superlative in the body of your press release.
- Names Make News. If you’ve ever watched the Oscars ceremony on TV you’re not the only one. Most people want to see what the latest Hollywood stars are up to. Maybe your company doesn’t have the buying power to have a Hollywood actor as your pitchman. But that’s not to say you shouldn’t take a cue from Hollywood. Imagine if you could get your mayor to come to one of your events, or an industry expert or a local sports hero. Capitalize on their star power by mentioning that name up high in your press release.
- Big Numbers Make News. This News Hook can sometimes be tied in with #3 What’s Your Superlative? But you can also pick an arbitrary but psychologically important number to lead your story with. Let’s say your company has shipped it’s 1 millionth product or you’ve just hired your 100th employee. Do make sure that your press release explains the relevance of this milestone (e.g. against the backdrop of an industry trend), so it’s about more than just the numbers.
- Talk to Your Marketing People. Usually we encourage you not to listen to the marketing people too much. Selling a product is a completely different thing than selling a story. But in some cases you might want to break that rule. Marketing people are usually quite creative and love brainstorming about stunts that draw people’s attention. Perhaps they can come up with a nice play of numbers to mark your company anniversary, e.g. by reducing prices to the level of the year of establishment. Or maybe they can create a nice stunt to highlight a celebrity endorsement. Imagine the coverage you will get if a famous football player “unexpectedly” pops up in random neighborhoods to play with underprivileged kids.
- Broaden Your Story. You could also take a more journalistic approach to your press release and broaden the story. Coming back to your company anniversary, maybe 15 years ago you were the only entrepreneur who had the courage to open a store in a street that used to be unpopular because of high crime rates and low foot traffic. Focus your press release on how you worked together with the city authorities to clean up the street and how your anniversary shows the success of that collaboration. Maybe the mayor is even willing to show up at your party? That would be great publicity, particularly if you are trying to reach local customers.
- Why now? When journalists decide what to write on, immediacy is one of the most important criteria. News has to be fresh and relevant, so timing is everything. Always check if you can tie your announcement to a trending news topic or a specific (upcoming) news event. Maybe you won a huge contract right after securing financing. Try to connect these two and see if this makes your story stronger. Alternatively, you can use the annual calendar or today’s weather forecast to find clues for news hooks. One of the best times to make your expert on water safety available to the media is probably in summer time when kids are looking for lakes and rivers to swim in.
- Localize. If you’re targeting local media, always try to find a local angle to make it more relevant to them. If your company is attending an event, can you make a statement about the success of your business in the area where the event takes place? Or perhaps you can say something about the attractiveness of this region for your industry niche? If you’re a local business looking for creative ways to reach customers, consider taking a national poll and comment on whether this applies to your region or city.
- Human Interest. In journalism, a human interest story is a feature story that discusses a person, or people, or a companion animal in an emotional way. It presents people and their problems, concerns, or achievements in a way that brings about interest, sympathy or motivation in the reader or viewer (source: Wikipedia). If a celebrity is endorsing your brand, check with him or her whether he or she has an emotional bond with either the product or the (societal) issue that it’s addressing. If so, consider making it personal and let the celebrity explain why endorsing your product is so important to him/her.
- Take a Stand. This News Hook works particularly well for announcements about the findings of a report, survey or poll. Sometimes the outcome of a report is outright boring and goes unnoticed until someone draws an interesting conclusion based on it. If you have commissioned a report and the outcome lacks newsworthiness, consider making a bold action statement about it: “Company X Urges Government to Do Y After Poll Shows Z”
- Visualize. In the era of viral news and social media, you should also consider creating an image to draw attention to your news. Photos can be taken from a smartphone and sent around the web in seconds. If you can tie an image to your publicity stunt, you’re more likely to reach your audience. You can also “visualize” your announcement through words. For example, consider using illustrative comparisons in your announcement to bring otherwise boring and meaningless numbers to life (e.g. “Our company saved 50 tonnes of waste last year – the equivalent weight of 12 adult elephants.”)
- Event Teaser. Are you announcing news at an event? Consider including a teaser in your announcement, so journalists are more eager to come. Perhaps you could say that your company will announce “big industry news”, reveal a new product that will help you play into a hot industry trend, or announce interesting research findings. Please be careful with this hook. If you say that you are going to announce “big news”, it will really have to be big. Otherwise you will undermine your credibility for years to come.
- Conflict and competition. Sex, celebrities and conflict have one thing in common: they sell newspapers. But how to add an element of conflict to your press release without sparking too much controversy? In March 2017 bottled water overtook soda as the most popular beverage in the U.S. This news spread across the Internet like a flood. Why? Because the media love competition and a new leader. Check out our analysis of this press release here.
- Break With the Past. This hook is closely related to What’s Your Superlative? If your press releases focuses on a milestone event, playing up the historic element can be very powerful. It’s the ultimate dream of a journalist to “be there” when history unfolds. Don’t use this hook too easily though. If journalists feel cheated, it might hurt your relationship with them for a very long time.
We’re always trying to get better at what we do, and as you can imagine there are many ways to spice up your press release and make it more compelling to your Target Audience. If you came up with a creative News Hook that you want to share with fellow-Publiqly users or if you have any questions, please let us know at email@example.com
We recommend you to write your press release using at least two computer screens. If you don’t have a second screen or monitor, you can access Publiqly on your phone or tablet. Below is a tip for how to set up Publiqly on a mobile device.
Publiqly’s online tool uses responsive design, which means it looks good on screens of all sizes and shapes. Simply go to www.publiqly.com in your mobile browser and log in using your regular user name and password.
Most phones and tablets are set in such a way that the screen locks after a couple of minutes to save battery life. You can resolve this issue on your iPhone or iPad’s IOS system with the following steps:
- Go to “Settings”
- Go to “Display and Brightness”
- Go to “Auto-Lock” and switch to “Never”
Don’t forget to change back your settings after finalizing your press release, otherwise your screen settings might deplete your battery faster than you’d hoped.
So you’ve read through the list of Publiqly’s Most Powerful News Hooks and identified a powerful hook for your next announcement. Now what? In this article we show you how to use your News Hook(s) to create a newsworthy and compelling press release.
Why Do We Use News Hooks?
Your News Hook is possibly the most important element within your press release. It helps focus your writing and highlights the real news of your announcement, so it’s more likely to catch a journalist’s or influencer’s eye.
How to Apply News Hooks (and Where)?
To make your press release stand out, you should try to make the real news rise to the top, figuratively and literally. That means that, if possible, you should introduce your News Hook in the headline of your announcement.
The most logical place is the tail end of the headline, where our workflows ask you to add color using your Narrative building blocks from your Questionnaire. But that’s not always the best place. When you picked the What’s Your Superlative hook, it usually works best to just report the news and weave your News Hook through your headline. In the example below, the News Hook (being the first) is highlighted in blue:
ABC Launches World’s First Gluten-Free Croissants With Old World Taste
Apart from the headline, the News Hook also weaves its way through the rest your announcement. If you have introduced a hook in your headline, you will have to back it up throughout your release. For example, if your headline mentions a trend that your news is playing into, you will have to support that narrative in the rest of your release by providing statistics, background and quotes. You want readers to believe that what you are saying is true and it should be evident why your news is relevant to them.
You can also combine more than one hook, or use one hook higher up and one lower down. For example with a celebrity endorsing an ocean cleanup project, you could lead it using the Names Make News hook and then in the third and fourth paragraphs, you could add the Human Interest hook explaining why this topic matters so much to this person. In this example, the actress fell in love with the ocean when starring in the (fictitious) Hollywood film “Shark Woman”. Combining more than one News Hook will make your press release stronger. But don’t use too many, otherwise your story will lose focus.
After completing the first four workflow steps, you will notice some text in your filled-in template that is neither green or blue highlights. These are the so-called Dateline and Company Description at the start of the first paragraph, and the Boilerplate and Contact Information at the bottom of the press release. Here we show you how to fill in those blanks.
- Dateline. The Dateline is located at the top of a press release, just after the headline and before the start of the first paragraph. The Dateline describes where and when the press release was issued and it follows the following simple structure: City, Month, Day, Year –. For example: New York, Jan. 25, 2016 —
Determining the location can be a bit tricky. Usually it’s the city where the sender of the press release is based. Or in the case of event news, companies typically use the city where the event is held to highlight the connection. But what do you do when you are based in Chicago and you received an investment from a New York-based private equity fund? Well, that’s up to you and the investor. In that case, you can also decide to use two city names in the Dateline. For example: New York and Chicago, Jan. 25, 2016 —
- Company Description. This is a short and pithy description of your company activities. It’s often derived from the Boilerplate and highlights your company’s size and scope in its most important business. For example: Royal Philips, a global leader in health technology,…
The Company Description is often the same but it can change from press release to press release, depending on the main topic of the announcement. For example, Royal Philips also uses the following Company Description to target a more specialized audience: “a leader in integrated image-guided therapy solutions”
- Boilerplate. Also known as the About Us section. This is the bottom paragraph of your press release in which you give a short bio of your company. The Boilerplate concisely explains what your company does, when it was founded, where you are based, your strong points, and how many people work at the company. At the end of your boiler plate, you can add the address of your company website. The Boilerplate typically doesn’t change from press release to press release. Here’s an example from Apple:
Apple revolutionized personal technology with the introduction of the Macintosh in 1984. Today, Apple leads the world in innovation with iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple Watch and Apple TV. Apple’s four software platforms — iOS, macOS, watchOS and tvOS — provide seamless experiences across all Apple devices and empower people with breakthrough services including the App Store, Apple Music, Apple Pay and iCloud. Apple’s more than 100,000 employees are dedicated to making the best products on earth, and to leaving the world better than we found it.
- Contact Information. Located right below the Boilerplate, this section lists the contact person’s name, phone number and e-mail address. Make sure this person is available to speak with the press on the day the press release goes out – and preferably also the days after. When the press release involves another company (e.g. in the case of a product partnership announcement), it’s often a good idea to also add their contact details.
In this section we explain how to edit your press release. There are three main parts to editing a press release: the News Check, Fact Check and the Spell Check.
- News Check. Here you’ll revisit the News Hook that you decided to go for in Step 2. You’ll have to learn to be your most skeptical critic when scrutinizing the newsworthiness of your press release. Simply put, if you don’t have a viable News Hook, nobody will read it. So take a step back, look at your headline and first paragraph and ask yourself “Why would anyone care about this?” If needed, go back to the News Hooks we suggested in Step 2 and make sure you picked the strongest one. Also, ask yourself whether you’re providing enough background and facts to back up your News Hook throughout the press release.
- Fact Check. It’s crucial to go back through your press release with all of the relevant parties who are quoted, as well as those within your organization who helped shape the press release. Ask them to check whether your announcement has the right tone, theme and properly plays up the news. But also make sure that they fact check each and every word in the press release. Also, see our template e-mail here to send to internal and external sources asking for sign-off, which is often combined with the final Fact Check.
- Spell Check. Double check the spelling of every word in your announcement. While automated spell checks in Microsoft Word are helpful, they aren’t perfect. They won’t catch it if you misspell your CEO’s name.
Before you send out your press release, you’ll need to make sure the right people sign off on it. This step is often combined with the final Fact Check. It’s crucial that the relevant people fact check each and every word in the announcement. If you send out an erroneous press release, you risk an embarrassing situation or worse – spreading mis-information that might be almost impossible to unwind as you watch your news spread across the globe.
The people who have to sign off differs per press release and company, but the usual suspects are your General Manager/CEO, anyone else who is quoted in your announcement and perhaps your legal counsel. Make sure they focus their final check on the right things. Below is an email template to send to internal and external sources asking for sign-off:
Please find attached a draft version of our press release about TKTK. Could you please focus your feedback on tone, completeness, correctness, and if it gives you the right feeling? To speed up the revision process, please share your feedback via track changes or comments in the attached document.
We want to finalize the press release on DATE, and send it out on DATE, so please respond by DATE.
If you have any comments or questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me at TKTK.
So you finished your press release and everyone has signed off on it. Now what?
Here are four practical and low-cost methods to get your news in front of your target audience. Use them in tandem and you’ll be more successful.
1. Use Your ‘Own Media’
- Post your press release in the news section of your website.
- Include it in your customer newsletter. It will give your sales people interesting content to share with prospects and satisfied clients might even share the news via their own social media feeds. In the end, they are your ambassadors.
2. Share it on Social Media
- Share your news via social media channels, such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Plus or Facebook. Don’t forget to link to your website to attract more visitors.
- Reach out to influencers. Find out on Twitter who the most important influencers are in your niche. Start following them, maybe they will follow you back and retweet your news.
3. Reach Out to Relevant Media
There are many media platforms to target. It all depends on who your target audience is, as you determined in Step 2 of your Workflow. If you’re trying to reach influencers in your specific niche, you should focus on trade media. If you’re trying to reach local customers, go for local and regional media. Here are a few tips to find and reach out to relevant media:
- Go to Google News [or select “News” below Google’s main search bar] to identify relevant media. Search for topics related to your company or news about your competitors. Some of these articles will be written by journalists who could very well also be interested in your company. Use Twitter, Google and their publication’s website to start reading up on them. What do they typically write about? Would they be interested in your news?
- Find their contact details. Always aim for their personal email address, which you can usually find on the publication’s website. Use Google to go to the appropriate webpage [“contact reporters” or “contact editors” + publication name] or do a more generic search [“name of the journalist” followed by the domain name of the publication].
- Reach out to the journalist by email. Introduce your company in a concise and compelling way (don’t use more than a few sentences) and ask them if they would like to learn more. If they are interested, add their contact details to a spreadsheet to start building a press release distribution list.
- If you can’t find their personal details of if they don’t want to be on your list, use the general newsroom mailbox instead [Google: “submit” + “press release” + publication name]. If you share the release with multiple receivers, make sure to use the BCC field in your email.
- If there is a specific target publication you would like to reach, check for their editorial calendar [Google: “editorial calendar” + publication name] and see if/when your news update fits in with their planning.
4. Go for the Low-Hanging Fruit
- Use a free press release distribution site. Check the article here for an overview. Of course, you can also use paid services such as PR Newswire or Business Wire, but we promised to offer low-cost solutions.
- Check if you can find special “posting websites” where you can post your press release for free. This will help your search rankings on Google. Do a Google search for “submit news” or “submit content” and the kind of publications you are trying to reach, e.g. “tech media”. You’ll get a long list of websites to submit press releases.
- Some trade media websites have a special product page where you can submit product news. Make sure you have an attractive image/logo that illustrates the content.
PR doesn’t stop when sending out a release. In this article we provide low-cost and time-efficient methods to manage media relations, monitor results and use feedback to improve your press release strategy.
- Decide in advance how to deal with questions from the media and who picks up the phone (and make sure this person is available for comment when the press release goes out).
- You could use a Q&A to help prepare for difficult questions from journalists (and ask critical questions and be the smartest guy in the room during internal meetings). If you want to receive more tips and tricks about Q&As, please let us know via email.
- Is your company a well-known brand? Great! If not, be sure to have a 30-second pitch ready to introduce your company to journalists. How would you describe your company, target audience, and product benefits in one sentence (e.g. “we’re the leading provider of PR workflows that help small and mid-sized businesses save time and money on writing press releases”). Expand your pitch by also covering the following questions: what problem are you solving, why is that a burning pain for your customers, why should we care (particularly right now) and what makes your company unique?
2.Monitor PR results
- Set Google Alerts in advance. Go to Google Alerts here and create alerts for your company name and the topic and/or most important names mentioned in your press release.
- Use Google and Google News to monitor whether your press release has been picked up by the media. Simply go to google.com and google.com/news and search for your company and and the topic and/or most important names mentioned in your press release (e.g. “Publiqly” + “media management course”).
- Go to Twitter and search for your company name and the topic and/or most important names mentioned in your press release.
- Manually check the websites of the most important media outlets on your target list.
- If you have the budget available, you might want to use a media monitoring service. Check out this blog about tools for monitoring and managing media relations.
3. Use feedback to improve your strategy
- If a journalist or blogger is kind enough to give you feedback, make sure you use it to fine tune and/or customize your press release strategy. Are they looking for news on different topics? Or maybe they want to receive press releases in a different file format? Rule of thumb: honor their requests as much as you can.
- Ask yourself the following simple questions: which media picked up our News, which didn’t and what can we do to get better results with specific outlets in the future?
As we said in the beginning, this article is focused on providing easy-to-follow and low-cost steps to manage media relations, measure your success and use feedback to improve your press release strategy. If you have a comprehensive strategy in place with SMART-formulated goals, measurement will become a tool for driving incremental improvements in the areas that matter most to your business.
We plan to soon launch a separate strategic course entirely dedicated to media management and measurement here on Publiqly.com, please let us know via email if you would be interested and we’ll keep you in the loop.