Words to Use to Get Your Press Releases Read

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Our Water Cooler item the other day regarding some of the words to avoid in press releases generated instant feedback. However, a few communications professionals asked us to flip the notion, and offer some words that will get journalists to read your press releases rather than delete them.

Reg Rowe, founder of GrayHairPR, points to a triumvirate of words to use in press releases and make reporters and editors pay attention to the release, as well as some words to use when pitching the media via your social channels:

> The three most effective words to use in writing a news release and headline are “free,” “new” and “best.” The meanings are well understood by all. For blogs, some of the best words for headlines are surprising, smart, science and critical.

> Some successful social media words include: “how to,” “facts” and “great.” The number 10 is popular as in Top 10 lists, a big favorite.

Aside from using words in press releases that are going to pique reporters’ interest, there are several ways—mental exercises, really—for PR pros to think about the delivery of their press release and how the end user may respond.

Beth Haiken, VP of branding and communications at Lending Club, and Stephanie Corns, director of communications at Charles Schwab, provide some questions to ask yourself before you hit the send button.

1. How would you describe the announcement at a cocktail party? Could you imagine yourself, martini in hand, waxing poetic about, "The Newest and Most Exciting Offers Company X Is Rolling Out This Week?" If you can't visualize yourself enthusiastically discussing the topic as written, you need to rework it.

2. How would you explain it to a kid? The answer to this question is an easy way to eliminate jargon in your releases. Zero children know what a "buzzword" is. And let's be honest, these empty words resonate with few adults.

3. How would you describe it in 100 words or less? 50 words? 25 words? 10 words? If you can't concisely explain what your message is, you've got a problem.

4. What is the average length of sentences and paragraphs? We've said it before and we'll say it again: Keep it short and simple. Today's journalists tune out in seconds. Don't let that happen to you.

5. What reading level does Microsoft Word assign to your document? Use this tool to gain some insight on your writing's readability. Here's an easy tutorial to take you through the steps.

Follow Matthew Schwartz on Twitter: @mpsjourno1