How to write your first press release

Do you know your lede from your nutgraf? Can you pack a punch in the first 50 words? Can you make headline news?

At some point, every tech startup needs a press release. To launch your company or bring a new product to market. Perhaps you have won a big new client or formed a strategic partnership with a big brand.

Finding a PR agency that understands your technology and is available for your budget can be hard.

The good news is that writing press releases are formulaic — you just need to know the formula!

So for all those startups out there with amazing technology the world needs to hear about, here is a step by step guide to writing a good press release.

Make a bullet point list of all the facts you know about the announcement you are making. Use simple words and write in short sentences that are straight to the point. Don’t waffle. And don’t use jargon. Then put all those facts into an order of priority. The most important first and the least important last. Now you can use these bullet points to create your press release.

Read through the first three or four points. These will become the opening paragraph (aka the lede). The most important paragraph of the whole press release. Anyone reading the press release should get the whole story in the first paragraph. It should grab the reader’s attention and hook them immediately. It should demand they read the story because it is either cool, fascinating, provocative or important.

The next two paragraphs (aka the nutgraf) are the heart of the story because they explain why the story matters and why you are writing it. They may elaborate on the first paragraph, provide a bigger context for the story, develop some of the ideas raised in the first paragraph, or billboard what the story is about.

Now you need a quote to drive home the main point of the story as described in the previous two paragraphs. The quote should be from your company spokesperson. The ‘face’ of the company. Decide who is going to be the main company spokesperson and stick with it so you start to build a relationship with the media and reputation of that person as an industry leader. More on this in a future blog.

Then comes the body of the story which develops in detail all the points you made in the opening three paragraphs. The body of the story must support the first half of the press release or you have written the wrong opening paragraphs.

The body might pick up where the first half of the press release left off developing the information in detail. Or it might present some background information needed for readers to understand the significance or meaning of the announcement.

The end. Often gives a summary of the story without repeating information you’ve already stated. It could be a quotation that sums up the mood or main idea of the story. It could return to the idea expressed in the opening paragraph. It should never have new information and if it was cut from the press release, the story should still make sense.

Finally, write your headline. This should be a pure distillation of the opening paragraph. The story in a nutshell. It is what will make the journalist read the first paragraph. It doesn’t need to be clever or witty. It needs to state the facts.

Date your press release and always give a point of contact for more information at the end.

Now show your press release to your Mum or someone who knows absolutely nothing about your business or sector. Do they understand the story? Can they explain what you are announcing and why it matters? If they can’t. Go back and start again. Better that your Mum doesn’t get it, than the journalist deletes your press release.

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