All press releases, no matter their subject, must have a beginning, middle and an end. The beginning and middle are by far the most important of the three.

The beginning is the shiny wrapping that attracts the reporter’s interest. The middle rewards the reporter for persevering past the beginning and the end doesn’t matter too much because, if the reporter has read this far, then you have his or her interest.

Let’s start with a beginning. It can be as short as a sentence and it’s called an intro, or introduction. It has interest, it’s written in the active voice and it’s pithy. You can’t beat simple, straightforward writing to gain instant attention. Leave long words to textbooks and consultants.

Here are some common sense rules that can increase your chances of enticing journalists past the first paragraph.

Don’t try too hard to craft a headline. If you’re trying to entice electronic media, they don’t use headlines and if you’re hoping to attract print coverage, they’ll have sub editors who are fifty times better than you at playing with words to interesting effect. Rather, make it simple and informative and to the point.

Decide what the release is about by removing all the peripheral ideas.

Suppose a small company decides to buy a new building because it’s winning export orders and wants to expand production. The press release is not about the new building. Buildings are bought and sold every day. The release is about success; more jobs; export orders; expansion; hard work pays off; foresight. Whichever angle suits the climate of the times is what you go for in the head.

Don’t make the headline a riddle such as, “‘Where to from here?’ exporter asks”, or, “Directors Express Satisfaction”. The headline needs to state something that will excite interest. Something like, “Foreign Competitors Retreat in Face of Local Revival”, or ” Jobs Galore – Smith and Co. Needs Workers Urgently”.

The intro, or first paragraph, expands on the headline and leads us into the second paragraph.

The intro would mention the good news: more jobs, success for local company. The second paragraph would put meat on the intro’s claims by stating the value of the order or whichever angle you chose. The third paragraph would put it in context. “Despite increased foreign competition ?” etc.

By all means add further paragraphs but don’t confuse length with quality. Reporters only need to be interested enough to pick up a phone and find out more. Let them do the word smithing – just give them the basics.

Write the release in the active voice. Let the subjects of your sentences do things rather than have things done to them by the verbs. If a business wins a contract don’t write, “The government contract to make licence plates has been won by Smith Industries.” Write “Smith Industries has won the…”

Here are a couple of examples.

Passive (avoid) Active
The boy was bitten by the dog. The dog bit the boy
The marketing award was won by the company for its great campaigns. The company won the marketing award for its great campaigns.
It has been decided that… We have decided…

The verbs in the active voice are simpler and more direct than in the passive.

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