When we run press release training courses, one of the tests delegates’ releases have to pass is the smartphone test. But what is the smartphone test?
Simply that if a journalist received your press release on their phone, would they want to read it, or would they immediately delete it?
Nowadays, press releases don’t first arrive as hard copies, which are then scan-read, and either put on a pile for follow up, or “spiked”.
They arrive by email.
And those emails will very often be read first on a phone. By someone who might also have received 100 others within just a few minutes.
So your press release has to grab the journalists attention within the 2-3 seconds that it takes to decide whether it is worth reading on.
So what does that mean?
The journalist will probably only see your subject line and about 20 words of the body of your email, so your headline and your introduction are vital.
My top five “what not to dos” for press release subject-lines and introductions
1. Don’t just write “press release” in the subject line
2. Don’t make your subject “For immediate release”
3. Don’t put the body of your release in an attachment – who has time to open it?
4. Don’t fill the first few lines of your email with long and intricate details of your embargo. While you have to make it clear, three-four words maximum is all you need
5. Don’t fill your introduction with legalese, long titles or complex information about who you are collaborating with for this latest initiative
And five “what to dos”
1. Do make your subject line intriguing, sexy (in a journalistic, not literal sense), or very clear (some topics just need a “does what it says on the tin” type of subject line)
2. Do keep the subject line short – 5-6 words absolute tops
3. Do encapsulate the most interesting aspect of your story in the introduction. This may not necessarily be the most important aspect, or the central core of the story
4. Do make your introduction short, using as many active words as possible
5. Do aim to answer the who, what, where, when and why questions which journalists will always ask