You wake up disoriented, hands-tied, in a locked room. What are the first questions you’ll ask? If you’re in a really bad way you may ask “who am I?”, you’ll certainly ask “what happened?”, “where am I?”, “how did this happen?” and, maybe most importantly, “WHY?”
It’s fair to say, reading a press release is not like this. But it’s funny how often you can feel a sense of dread when you hit one that leaves these questions hanging.
They are guiding principles of storytelling and news journalism. Answering them clearly and quickly is an absolute must. But, really, you have these cracked before writing anything at all.
So, instead of focusing on the old fashioned 5 Ws, we’ve tried to spruce them up with a different approach.
Here are top tips for tackling the other 5 Ws.
Who? Focus on the reader
The most obvious question to answer is “who is really going to read this?”
If you want your audience to react, make sure you nail the tone of what you’re trying to say — and perhaps match it with what you’re trying to sell.
Who are you are sending this announcement to? Is it the tech press, consumer bloggers, journalists for national journalists or subscribers of your mailing list?
Create a picture of your reader in your head and stare them in the eye as you’re writing. If it helps, use someone you know and begin with “Dear Barry” (replace name as applicable.)
What? Know your strategy
Make sure that you have a clear strategic goal in mind. Ask yourself “what do I want to achieve?” Then tailor the message and content to fit. Ideally, only ask your reader to do one thing. And repeat it clearly throughout.
If you’re launching a new consumer product make sure you highlight how it can make their lives easier. If it’s a business focused product you may instead want to focus on the cost savings and benefits to productivity instead.
Where to share
Where are the eyeballs? Is this something you should send to journalists or promote through your own channels. Do you need to put some sponsored budget behind it to reach new audiences or is it going to make a difference for your current flock?
Businesses now have more platforms available to them than ever before – email, company website, Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, Soundcloud and many more. You’ll need to figure out which one to use to cut through the noise and reach an audience that is time-poor and over-loaded with information.
When? Timing is everything
So what’s the best day to send a press release?
An informal poll of 215 PR professionals found Tuesday was the best day to send releases whilst MarketWire suggests Friday is the best day to pitch the press because journalists aren’t swamped with news. The truth is there’s no magic day but applying some intelligence can give you a pretty good idea.
Why? The killer punch
Don’t forget the killer punch – Why? Why should anybody care about what you have to say? The why factor is ignored when preparing a press release. This needs to change.
Put yourself in the place of your audience and consider whether you have supplied a compelling reason to engage their interest. Position your announcement as part of a wider trend or include a quote from a third party to explain why it is important. If you still can’t think why anyone would care then there’s no point going any further.
Answering the 5Ws in both the planning and production stage will result in clear communications with your audience in the most effective way. The last thing you want is to leave them dazed and confused.
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