The power of plain English in the tech sector: 9 steps to press releases that work
Press releases are an important way to get your tech news out there. Even so, plenty of tech companies fail to get results when they issue a press release. There are lots of reasons. A major one is that they are announcing product. Product news doesn't get coverage unless it's extremely sexy. Try as you might, your exciting new server won't cut it.
The other big reason releases don't work is because they aren't well written.
Think about the things a journalist must do each day: 1. assess if the hundreds of stories they've received are worth writing about 2. distill the stories they select into ones that readers will want to read 3. make the stories entertaining to read so people come back to read more.
If you fail to make it clear what you are announcing and engage a journalist then your release will hit the reject pile faster than you can say coverage. So what can you do?
Avoiding rejection means following our nine steps to writing a press release:
1. Think about who it is you are trying to get your story to - are they a business leader, a specialist practitioner, or an end consumer? This will help you tell a story they want to hear, and journalists will want to write.
2. Identify the press these people read, listen to or watch. You can then look at how stories are written in these titles, and see how your story may, or may not, be a fit for them.
3. Think about what a journalist will need to make a story work - what's the 'hook' that will make your story more interesting and stand out?
4. Summarise the story in the first paragraph and then use the following three to explain more. You need to be sure that a journalist with no knowledge of you or your company can pick up a press release and understand exactly what it is you do and you want to tell them within the first paragraph.
5. Make one of your paragraphs a quote. It's rare to be interviewed about a press release these days. Your best chance of your spokesperson being quoted is to provide a quote that packs and punch and gives more human colour to the facts.
6. Use short sentences in your press releases. This will make it easier to read and will help you tell the story in a logical order.
7. Use plain English to explain things. Avoid abbreviations and jargon. If you were to explain this to your mum would she get it? And consider this, a lot of press is still written for the reading age of a 12 year old.
8. Sometimes one version of the story isn't enough. You might have a story that would work for the security trade press as much as it would the utility press. Don't assume the two types of press will have similar levels of knowledge. Instead write two versions of the press release.
9. Entertaining copy is enhanced with images to match. Think about offering photographs, diagrams or illustrations that bring the main point of your story to life - the editors will be grateful to anyone who makes publishing a story easier.