Time and again when I’m teaching PR people how to write effective press releases, I come up against the problem of branding.
This is particular an issue for PR agencies, often at the mercy of their clients’ brand guidelines.
The problem is that brand guidelines generally don’t take into account the realities that PRs face when pitching a story to a journalist.
And they insist that the most important factor when writing a press release is to make the name of the company or brand the focal point.
That means that the name of the company or brand has to be in the headline and at the start of the first paragraph.
The problem with this is that the journalist is first and foremost looking for a story, and they don’t necessarily care who the company is that is providing it.
If they see a headline – most often nowadays the subject line of an email – saying:
“Richmond Widgets in collaboration with Kingston Steel has launched an amazing new steel widget”
then they’re not going to read much further than “Richmond Widgets in collaboration with …”, before they fall off the chair with boredom, hitting the delete button on their way down.
Whereas if they see a headline which is something like:
“Amazing new widget revolutionises beer flavours” that might definitely spark their interest.
A press release stuffed with brand names and collaborations, and taglines (“Richmond – Widgets you can trust”) is really just too much of an overt sales pitch.
Of course journalists know that if a PR has sent out a press release, it is because they’re trying to sell something (be that a product, an idea or a campaign).
However they don’t like to feel that they’re an inadvertent part of the sales team. They want to write stories on their merits, which may happen to have originated in a press release about a product.
The problem is sending out a press release that is so heavily branded that it’s ignored by journalists is a waste of time, money and resources.
It’s completely counter-productive.
How to write effective press releases
It’s far more effective to write a press release which has an impact and gets picked up by the media, leading to coverage where the brand name is mentioned in the piece.
If companies insist on the brand name being in the first paragraph or headline, I always suggest to delegates on my press release courses that they mention it at the end of the first paragraph, so the journalist reads the story first.
Or even better, to put it at the start of the second paragraph.
For more advice about how to write effective press releases, we design and deliver full day bespoke courses, and I also run monthly courses around the country on behalf of the PRCA. For more information, contact us on 020 8332 6200 or firstname.lastname@example.org.