Written by Melinda Cooper
Writing press releases is not as easy as it looks. Formerly, I worked at the Indy Star, where I received hundreds of press releases daily at the calendar desk. I always thought to myself how easy it looked to write a press release… just throw together some company facts, what they are up to and send it out. Sounds easy, right?
Recently, we were sent the “Write the Perfect Press Release in One Hour or Less” press release. Still trying to learn this skill myself, I thought why not read it (without my boss noticing of course since I am attempting to come across as the intern know-it-all).
The release states:
Step 1 – Choose the Topic of the Press Release
Ya… sounds easy enough. What are we talking about here? How about… my (fake) new Web site.
Step 2 – Write the Headline
Hmm.. okay “Melinda Cooper Launches Fake Web site”
Step 3- Write the Body of the Press Release
Oooh I should be able to do this! It’s news writing. The 5Ws and 1H from elementary school. Who? What? Where? When? Why? How? But throw in some sales pitch language like you hear on infomercials to encourage people to go to the site.
Wait a minute…. this release says “Opinion, fluff or hype is not appropriate. Statements about how the product or service is the most amazing innovation ever invented should not be included. It is important that readers form this opinion by themselves by reading the details (facts) in the press release.”
But why will people go to my new Web site if I don’t hype it up? Won’t they just write it off and never know about my fake company? Apparently not (at least according to this).
Alright. Let’s try it.
Fake Company launched www.fakewebsitehere.com, a fake Web site today. The fake site features a blog to keep up with my business life, a business idea submission form, updated Web format and graphics by Taylor Brough of Roundpeg.
About Fake Company:
Fake Company was started Sept. 8, 2009 by Melinda Cooper at her desk at Roundpeg. Fake Company teaches lessons to interns about how to write press releases. It also proves that even though you have a college education does not mean you always know what you are doing.
Me at Fake Company
.. that wasn’t so hard. Did I pass the test?
Step 4 – Verify that the Basic Press Release Rules were Followed
– Was your press releases written in third person?
*think think think* Go back to English class… third-person is when someone else is narrating right? Right.
– Does your press release focus on your announcement or news rather than selling something? Your press release should never resemble an advertisement or sales letter!
Well… I did mention who did my fake Web site graphics to give credit….
– Did you include a media contact name, email address and phone at the bottom of the press release?
– Did you include at least three links to your web site?
Yes! I love links.
– Is there any way that you can make your press release more interesting, timely or unique?
Maybe… if it were real, I would have more to say?
– Is your press release more than 200 words and less than 500?
Ouch. No, it is less than 100. Note to self: Find more to say in press releases.
– Did you add ### to the bottom of the press release to signify the end?
No. It’s added now!
– Is your headline clear and to the point? Can it be shortened without losing anything?
I should probably change it from Melinda Cooper to Fake Company.
– Are all details of the “Who, What, When, Where, How and Why” covered in the body of the press release?
Maybe I should focus more on the how and why for more text?
– Have you looked at other press releases to make sure yours looks correct and does not leave out any information?
Not today. Maybe the key to writing great press releases is experience. I can tell you it is not a degree in Journalism OR reading them multiple times on the press side.