Take Five: How to Jazz Up Your Press Release

Someone said to me recently that the biggest mistake papers ever made was to go on the Web.

They were arguing that if newspapers had just stayed in printed form then they wouldn’t be in the trouble they are now.

After working as a reporter and sub-editor/headline writer in a host of Irish newspapers, and The Salt Lake Tribune, one of the first U.S. papers to fully embrace the Web, I don’t think newspapers had a choice in the matter.

Whatever about that argument, there’s one thing involving newspapers that hasn’t really evolved that much at all.

And it’s an absolute head-scratcher to me.

I’m talking about the humble press release.

It’s the perfect opportunity to tailor your message for print and broadcast news outlets.

But far too often companies, or government entities, still send out press releases that are almost predetermined to fail in that intention.

And the fix isn’t that hard, because it’s all about the fundamentals of storytelling.

The best press releases are just like any other story.

They MUST engage the audience.

So how do we do that?

Here’s five top tips… with help from Albert Brooks, Holly Hunter, Cliffs Notes, Kevin from The Office (U.S.) and a former New York Times reporter.

1. Don’t bury the lead

What’s the most important information you’re trying to convey?

For example, supposing there’s a major European health conference being hosted in Dublin. Let’s say every EU member state health minister is in attendance.

And let’s imagine our own Irish health minister is giving the keynote speech, and they announce a major new initiative.

Too often, a press release announcing this will lead off with something like:

“Health ministers from across the EU gathered at a special conference in Dublin Castle today along with stakeholders from across the sector including representative bodies of healthcare workers, consultants and patients rights’ groups from 28 countries.

“Over 500 delegates are in attendance to discuss issues around better stakeholder engagement, improved ways to measure patient outcomes, and best practice project management across the EU.

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