5 Questions to Ask Before Writing a Press Release

In the world of marketing communications, writing a press release plays an important press_releaserole in disseminating information about your company or product. Most importantly, if done correctly, a press release will get other websites, news sources and editors to communicate your message as a third party, important from a validation perspective. The more times your message is told, the better chance your target audience can receive your message.

So, before you sit down to write your press release, ask yourself these five important questions:

  1. What is the news I am announcing? There must be something you are announcing that comprises the “news” of the announcement. It isn’t ok to just regurgitate existing content from your website, collateral or brochures. There must be something newsworthy to announce, such as a new product, customer or region, an award or a management change. This requirement can sometimes be a challenge, but, if you don’t have any news to announce, no one will be interested to read your press release.
  2. Who are you writing your announcement to? In other words, who is the target audience or “persona” of your press release? Traditionally, press releases were written for the press; these documents would then become a basis for writing an article summarizing the announcement, or might be a trigger to write a more detailed perspective on the announcement. Today, this is not necessarily the case. Many press releases are now issued directly to the public via news websites. You need to think about whom the person is that you want to read your release. For example, just to name a few, are they engineers, teachers, business leaders or IT programmers?
  3. What are the 3 points of the story? Unless you specifically focus your thoughts on what these key messages are, chances are your target audience won’t get the right message.
  4. What do you want your readers to do next? In other words, once you have identified your topic and audience … in a perfect world … what you would like them to do next? Go to your website? Attend a conference? Purchase your latest book? How is this announcement going to help your business? How will you sell more product or service, as a result of this announcement? Think about what your desired call to action is, and then ask for it, or point readers in a direction so they come up with your desired action as a logical conclusion after reading the announcement.
  5. Could my mother understand this release? In other words, is it filled with industry jargon, abbreviations and other difficult words to understand, or, is your message clearly stated using terminology that is understandable to most readers? This question may appear to be in contradiction to item #2 above … if I am writing for a technical audience, isn’t it ok to write in a technical manner? Yes, and no. It is a reasonable assumption that if you are announcing technical news for technical readers, then some level of technical wording is probably appropriate. But, the flip side is that you also want other editors and websites to host your story. The person in charge of deciding if your press release goes on their site may not be very technical. If your release is too confusing, they will simply elect to “pass” and go on to the next news announcement. In the end, your press release must make sense to the laymen, regardless of target audience.

What do you think? Have I missed any other critical questions?

Gordon Benzie is a marketing adviser and business plan writer that specializes in preparing and executing upon business plans and marketing strategies. Gordon can be found on Google+.

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Gordon Benzie

Gordon Benzie is a marketing and communications leader that is passionate about protecting brands, generating demand and elevating the reputations of technology companies.

3 thoughts on “5 Questions to Ask Before Writing a Press Release”

  1. An excellent summary of PR Content… and one that follows its own guidelines… Clear crisp and easy to understand.

    As Gordon pointed out, more and more press releases are simply being posted as received to various websites, with no attempt made to use them as a basis as an article… Which makes these 5 questions even more relevant.

    You almost need to write a release like you write a blog. Focused, easy to understand and concise.. And don’t just use your words… use quotes from analysts, customers or industry figures to reinforce your top three points.

    And once completed, read it again to ensure that as a standalone piece it will stand out…

    Great article!

  2. I had this lightbulb a number of years back when I was writing a release. Nobody on the team was available and I had to get the release to the client ASAP. I was desperately looking for someone to collaborate with on it for feedback and a second pair of eyes.

    The VP started talking about what the goal of the release was and it was like a slap in the face. Duh, you mean we write press releases for a reason?

    When you start with WHO you want to do have DO WHAT, then it’s easy to develop messaging like three key benefits knowing how you want the reader to respond to the release.

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