Six Tips for Writing a World-Class Release

Of course, there are no sure-fire ways to write the perfect release. BUT if you follow the formula outlined below, you may just get there.

1. Write a feature lead.

Contrary to popular opinion, reporters don’t hate feature leads. They hate crappy feature leads. Instead of the conventional “today announced that” lead, why not make your release stand out from the crowd with a lead like this one, from Pfizer Animal Health:
"Imagine the first few hours in the recovery room following a hysterectomy or … ligament repair. Consider what post-surgical life has been like for some pets undergoing common surgical procedures; intense hours WITHOUT pain medication..."

2. Lead with the benefits.

Want to get your story into Forbes? “Present the key element … that explains how your story can benefit Forbes readers,” suggests Bruce Upbin, Forbes senior editor. No surprise, then, that many Silver Anvil winners lead with the reader benefits.

This example is from UnumProvident: "Employers now have a better way to measure, monitor and manage employee absences, thanks to UnumProvident Corporation’s expanded online Comparative Reporting & Analysis information services."

Beats by a mile the tired traditional approach: “UnumProvident Corporation today announced the expansion of its online Comparative Reporting & Analysis information services.”

3. Try a tipsheet.

Take the benefits approach to the furthest extreme, and you wind up with a value-added, or service, piece. Explain “how to,” and watch the media pick up your release. Some Silver Anvil-winning approaches:
“Infuse your party with style: Tips and trends for a spectacular summer soiree,” from VOX vodka
“Interview opportunity: Tips on how people can get more use out of their health coverage,” from Cigna
“UPS offers 10 tips for worry-free packing, shipping”

4. Drag them in with your subject line.

“With print, at least they have to pick it up to throw it away,” says Pat Jones, a communicator at TDS Telecom. Not so when you’re sending a pitch via e-mail. Online, you’re just one click of the delete key away from obscurity. Your only chance to get the message read: the subject line.

A provocative subject line, like this one from Enterpulse, can get your message opened: "New survey stats for Internet 'Death Penalty.'" This brisk pitch outlines Internet usage trends, including a “Silent Killer” that can keep people from returning to a company’s site.

5. Give great bio.

Do your executive or director bios read like a resume? Snooze. Wake your bios up with human-interest details and storytelling.

6. Use human interest.

What’s more compelling: an announcement about custom-fitted breast prostheses? Or a “breast cancer survivor profile?" Let people tell your story with leads like this one, from ContourMed:

"In 1989, Elizabeth McCann of Spring, Texas, felt a knot in her left breast. Her physician told her that she needed a biopsy, but was 99 percent sure it would be benign. McCann kept putting it off — until the pain in her breast woke her up at night..."

Instead of just filling in the blanks, use any or all of these approaches when you write your next release or pitch. Make your copy creative and compelling, not just one more cliché.

These tips were written by Ann Wylie, president of Wylie Communications. They originally appeared in the the All About Public Relations Web site.