In my last post, I started to explain some of the basics of how to write a news release. To illustrate, I used a draft of a news release announcing SmartsPro’s new website service for insurance agents, which I will refer to here.
In terms of style, I already mentioned the importance of using the “inverted pyramid.” The other important feature of a news release is that it should be written from an objective point of view. This means limiting adjectives and adverbs, and avoiding superlatives such as “great,” “awesome,” “attractive,” and “superior,” for example. In the first paragraph of my news release, I refer to “the popular open source WordPress platform.” The adjective “popular” is okay here because the fact that the WordPress platform is popular is an objective fact. It is quantifiably the most commonly used blogging platform in use today. The rest of the qualities I use to describe the WordPress platform — that websites created in it are “easy to maintain” (at least relative to other platforms) and “search engine-friendly” — are also objective statements. Numerous professional developers and programmers have said these things. What I can’t say about the WordPress platform in a news release is that it is a fantastic way to build websites for agents because it has so many awesome features.
At least I can’t say that in my objective third-person voice. Where I can say something like that is when I quote the company spokesperson (in this case myself). “We’ve combined all kinds of great features into one fantastic website.” That’s not very objective. I may feel it’s accurate, but it’s just my opinion, so it’s only acceptable as a quote.
In addition to avoiding hype in the main body of your news release, never use exclamation points. Keep in mind that a traditional news release is intended to inform the news media about something newsworthy, not to write the article yourself. Let the journalists decide if your news is exclamation point-worthy or hype-worthy.
As in all kinds of writing, whether it’s an ad, a novel or a news release, providing a good title or headline is critical. Try to come up with something strong. “SmartsPro Launches Agent Website Service,” may not seem very remarkable, since there are dozens of agent website services already available, but it is descriptive. The subhead “New Service Includes Newsletter Content for Better Search Engine Ranking” explains how this service is distinguished from the rest and why it may be worth your attention if you’re interested in improving your insurance marketing results.
As in any good writing, be clear and concise and try to use the active voice as much as possible.
Finally, as in writing a Shakespearean sonnet, an infomercial or an insurance policy, there are certain formalities to observe:
- In the upper left corner, provide the contact name, phone number and email address. To the left include the words FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE and provide the date below that.
- In the last paragraph or two, provide the corporate boilerplate, such as some brief background information on the company, when it was founded and maybe its slogan or mission statement.
- Try to keep your word count between 400 and 800 words: the fewer the better.
- Always close with either the three pound symbol “###,” “xxx” or “-30-“ to signify the end of the news release. By the way, this tradition originated during the Civil War when telegraph operators used XXX (which in Roman numerals stands for 30) to end transmissions.
Next time I’ll talk about how to tweak your news release to improve search engine optimization.