You’ve established your blog and started writing. Yeah? That’s a bold step into the world of writing. The first step is always the hardest. Alfa King Memories is not privy to this. But you’d understand from my previous post that it’s a great opportunity to practise your writing skills. As you proceed you’ll see the avenues are numerous.
However, there’s no single way you can break into print if you are serious about it. OK, I know you are determined. That’s why you are here. But it all depends on how you look at it although you may not be an expert in a particular field.
Go ahead, slowly but surely, as they say. Grab the area you are most at ease; but don’t neglect those that might offer opportunities for steady income if you get to master the skills. Press release is one of them. That’s exactly what we are going to see together in this post. Can I ask a question before we proceed?
What is a press release?
Any guess? OK, let’s find out.
Put simply a press release is a statement, and as its name implies it is meant for the press. The aim is to announce a product or service or whatever that is newsworthy in order to get media coverage at no cost. In other words it’s a free publicity opportunity for the item presented.
What a press release is not
No shrugging. I can legitimately anticipate your question: “But is it not advertising?” No it isn’t. Advertising is different. It uses a different language, boasting and flowery style. It aims at appealing to the customer with a view to persuade them to buy a product or service.
In a press release you are not selling. The aim is not to sell. You are not talking to the customer. If you followed me I mentioned “newsworthy” and “media coverage”. This implies:
(i) You are writing for a particular audience: the press or the media, which is not interested in buying something. The media seeks rather to fill the need for news. The press release should therefore appeal first and foremost to this target audience.
(ii) The press release should answer the 5 W’s (who, what, where, when, why) of the news item and provide as much information as possible.
A word of caution however:
But beware. Don’t overwrite. Stick to the KISS principle. Keep it short, simple (I won’t say silly or stupid, because you need to be serious here. We are talking business).
Write it all in a business tone. Avoid emotion. Be factual. Use active voice; avoid jargon and too flowery language; be objective but provide adequate background information about the product or service including corporate profile.
A well written press release should be no more than 400 to 500 words.
Are you still with me? So before wrapping up, let’s cast a glance at the constituents of a press release.
What are the elements of a press release?
A typical press release will be composed of elements such as:
(i) A headline – a single line that tells what the press release is about. It should grab the attention of the journalist for whom you are writing. So if you can write from a journalist’s perspective you’ve got it.
(ii) A dateline – the release date and usually the city of origin.
(iii) A summary – a synopsis of the news to be released, elaborating on the headline.
(iv) An introduction – a first paragraph with basic information to grab the attention.
(v) A body – a paragraph giving further details and explanation.
(vi) An about section – also called a “boilerplate”, providing corporate background information.
(vii) A Contact information section – spelling out the name, telephone number, mailing address, e-mail or any other means the media can reach the company.
Hold on; not finished yet. How would you indicate the end of the press release? Simple, insert the characters “# # #” or “-30-” at the bottom of the page.
That’s it folks. Whether you’ve decided to write a press release or otherwise, I hope you find it useful. I’d welcome any other viewpoints, suggestions or comments.
If you want to read further I’d suggest the following:
Mauritian residing in Rodrigues, Amanoola Khayrattee (pen name Alfa King) is contributing writer and journalist to La Gazette Mag de l’océan indien and This Week News Mauritius.
Retired, former meteorological cadre, trade unionist and OSH consultant, Amanoola has written for in-house union and other journals, publications and magazines. He runs two blogs since 2007: “Alfa King Memories”, and “Le Journal d’Alfa King”. When he is not reading or writing, he is on a 10+ km daily hike in anticipation of his monthly trails.
Amanoola may be reached at [email protected].