You’ve got an exciting project that you’ve been working on for months — and you’re ready to tell the world about it.
There’s just one catch.
You have to write a press release.
Because you’re no slouch, you do lots of research. You read articles that say press releases should essentially be a pre-written story, complete with a catchy headline.
You learn that you have to stay as concise as possible — but you don’t want to leave out the important points that make your project memorable.
On top of that, you feel pressure to make your project sound newsworthy. But you don’t want to misrepresent it by making it sound more sensational than it actually is. And in an online world driven by clickbait, you feel like it’s hard to compete for your readers’ attention.
Here’s the thing. All those concerns you have are completely valid. And honestly, they’re exactly why we love you so much!
You want to do things with integrity — even when it comes to promoting yourself. And it’s what we encourage all of our clients to do when we help them chart the course of their careers.
But that doesn’t change the fact that writing a press release is a balancing act.
That’s why we’re sharing how you can walk the tightrope of self-promotion and authenticity, so that you can craft a press release that gets noticed — and that you can feel proud to put out there.
First Things First
How many times have you sat down to write a press release and spent waaaaay too long on the headline?
Marketing expert Marie Forleo calls this a “creative cul-de-sac.” Meaning, the headline is one of those things that you could go ‘round and ‘round on without ever really getting anywhere.
So our advice is this: don’t worry about the headline (yet).
Instead, start by thinking about the tone of your piece. You might think that your press release has to sound exactly the same as every other press release out there. But that’s not true.
The tone of your press release should match the tone of your project. For example, if you’re promoting a zany, outside-the-box performance, your press release can have some surprises in it too. If your piece is historical, you can include quotes from that particular period of time.
If there’s something about you — or your performance — that stands out, think about how you can translate that to the tone of your piece. Think creatively about how you want people to feel when they read the press release (look at it as its own work of art!).
The Three Most Important Elements
Many people have created entire careers from crafting compelling press releases. And while it is an art form unto itself there are a few basic elements that, if done well, will put you leaps and bounds ahead of your competition.
Here are the three main areas to focus your energy on.
Element #1: The Opening
Journalists, copywriters, and storytellers know that the first paragraph is the most important. So that’s where your vital information should be.
If people only read the first few sentences of your press release, what do you want them to know?
Even better, how can you make your opening lines enticing enough that people will want to keep reading?
Element #2: The Benefits
Whether consciously or subconsciously, most readers are asking themselves, “What’s in it for me?”
That means that if your project or performance resonates with your audience, they’re more likely to read your press release, take action, and support you.
To connect with your audience, be clear about how your project benefits them. This can be tricky because there might not be a direct benefit (for instance, your performance might not make anybody richer, smarter, or better looking).
But it can connect to something that’s important to them. Maybe they want to support women in music, raise awareness about a cause, or build a like-minded community — if your project can help them accomplish one of their desires, make that clear.
Element #3: Your Story
Always remember to include the story of your project and how it came to be.
For inspiration, pretend you’re telling a friend about your project. What are the parts of your tale that would make your friend say, “Oh, wow!” or “Really? That’s crazy!”
Maybe you’ve been working on nights and weekends for the past year to make this happen. Maybe you received hard-to-get funding from a well-known donor. Include those details in your press release.
Spice It Up
There’s no denying it. Press releases can be boring! To fight it, infuse the press release with your personality.
It’s understandable that when you sit down to write, you might feel like you sound like a robot. To avoid this common problem, look back at tweets or emails you’ve written about your project.
Draw soundbites from the content you write when you’re not trying so hard.
You can also use quotes, background stories, or anything else to make it feel more personal.
Length & Form
While personality is important, it doesn’t mean you should be too wordy. Keep your press release concise, typically around one page.
We’ve also heard that the content should take the shape of an F — meaning your longer paragraphs should be at the top, with the content becoming progressively shorter toward the end.
Back to the Headline
Once you’ve written the foundation of your press release, spend some time on the headline.
Often, you might think it has be catchy and sensational but really, it has to be compelling. You can tease the content if that feels right — but it’s not a given. There’s also merit in keeping it simple and straightforward.
Here are a few subject ideas we sent to one of our Twitter followers who was writing her own press release:
[City] Singer’s New Album Puts Women in the Spotlight
Local Singer Determined to Close the Classical Music Gender Gap
[City’s] Singer Proves That Women Are Ready to Be Heard in Classical Music
The more you practice promoting yourself, the more comfortable you’ll be — and the better you’ll get at nailing your message.
So go easy on yourself and understand that this is a learning process. At the end of the day, if you’re fearless enough to put yourself out there and tell the world about your project, you’ve already succeeded.