Writing an article for a PR magazine about such a simple topic as creating press releases for events initially seemed a bit silly. When you type “How to write press releases” into Google, it spits out 118,000 results. What else is there to add? This is the most elementary knowledge, and here I’m addressing professionals in their field of expertise.
Wanting to write something new, I decided to enlist some friendly journalists in the process. What have I learned? First of all, that if you’re reading this because you don’t know how to write press releases, don’t feel special. According to them, at least 60 percent of PR professionals feel your pain.
To start from the beginning, there are four main kinds of event press releases that we send out to journalists:
1. Information about closed events where we invite journalists or to simply announce they will take place
2. Information about closed events that have already taken place
3. Information about open events where using the media we invite their audience
4. Information about open events that have already taken place.
What Is a Good Press Release Format in This Case? Definitely, It Should Be Constructed the Same as Any Other:
1. Title – telling what the news will be about.
2. Lead – a summary of the entire communique, including the answers to the 5 Ws
3. Body – elaborating on and specifying the info provided in the lead to explain the background of the story, starting with the most relevant
4. Date of publishing – ensuring the release is on time
5. Boilerplate – a short description that allows to convey the essence of the business and hence makes it easier to write about
6. Contact information – contact info to the author, company and/or the agency.
If we would like to host a journalist at our event, besides the press release, we should also send them an invitation clearly stating the date, time, venue and the reason for the event.
Before we write a press release about an event and then send it to anyone, we should first answer a couple of questions:
1. Does the newsroom that I’m addressing cover similar events?
2. Does the journalist that I’m addressing deal with my subject matter?
3. Will the newsroom/journalist find all the info necessary to write a useful article for their audience?
4. What is the most important thing in my press release and will the newsroom find a reason to publish my news?
These few points do not exhaust the press release writing issue, but as I mentioned before, the Internet is full of supplementary materials. The most important message in this article comes from the journalists I spoke to – each a recipient of dozens of press releases daily.
1. Journalist A: Investments, construction, architecture and real estate
2. Journalist B: Local news, city life and local government
3. Journalist C: Lifestyle, fashion, cosmetics and design
4. Journalist D: Art and culture
Below are some of the things pointed out by the people to whom we send our event press releases and invitations. Let’s check how they define writing a good press release about an event:
1. Flowery style of writing press releases, adjectives, praises and exaggerations
Journalist A: I like figures, facts and sensible quotes instead of a bunch of adjectives and silly references.
Journalist B: You’re doing it wrong if you’re using a million descriptions like “an amazing, one of a kind event that will forever be remembered.” The journalist then, not only has a difficult time grasping the most important info about the when and where, but also may be discouraged from looking hard to find it
Journalist D: When it comes to the language used, I strongly advise against using the so-called cool-words as well as overusing capital letters. Even if the subject is interesting, the journalists will most likely not want to spend the time adapting your language to their standards.
2. Presenting solid facts that interest the press
Journalist A: When I get a press release from an event where there were substantial talks on some issues, I would like to also get quotes on investments, trends, forecasts, etc. When I read that “the market is growing” or “the future is bright” I begin to lose my will to live. When organizing a conference to which you invite journalists, I would also stay away from “We are happy to announce,” “It is our honor to…” or “With joy we…” When I plan to attend a conference I’m only interested in what will be talked about and who will do the talking.
Journalist B: When you send a press release to a city paper about a concert of a lesser known band of a niche genre, other than just naming the music category (for example eco-hip-gothic rock), please list something known that the audience can compare it to. After all, this will be read by everyone.
Journalist C: If the event is really a new thing, something non-standard, it makes sense to cover everything from A to Z, starting with the things your reader will find the most interesting.
Get inspired – check out the best press release examples:
3. Sending your press release to a newsroom that doesn’t deal with your subject or an invitation to a journalist not in your field
Journalist B: It is common practice that the capital city paper gets flooded by spam from a concert agency organizing events all around the country.
Journalist C: Every day, I get hundreds of emails from all kinds of sources and in my work, time is of the essence. I have just a few seconds to look through each, and the ones that irritate me the most are the ones that should not be there at all. Working in the event department of a fashion magazine, I am not very likely to use your press release about a chicken beauty pageant or the grand opening of new ceramic tile production line. It’s really crucial to check your contact database and only send out useful info.
4. The way of sending press releases: attachments and other supplementary data
Journalist A: When it comes to grand openings, good pictures are key. We probably wrote about the venue before, so we have some knowledge about it, but a good summary is always welcome.
Journalist B: Putting just the name of the event, the date and the link to a Facebook page description is extremely bad practice. If you didn’t feel like copying the info from your FB page to the email, you can bet that I have no interest in it either. Plus, I am not obligated to have an account on every social media site.
Journalist C: Attachments are incredibly important. They must be of appropriate size and format so that looking through them will not require time and effort.
5. The frequency of calls, emails and follow-ups
Journalist C: Calling in your press releases is typically frowned upon and is generally treated like telemarketing. Journalists try to distance themselves from such PR pros. On top of that, it’s usually an intern without a clue that does the calling. It’s a little easier when you personally know the journalist.
Journalist D: There is one thing that we really don’t take kindly to. That is sending the same press release to all the email addresses at our office and repeating the process every couple of days. That will undoubtedly land you in the spam folder.
6. Overconfidence and not telling the truth
Journalist B: A certain music store wanted to promote their event so much that finally, their rep said that the reader “would like to know about this kind of an event.” That effectively ended our conversation. If that’s how you feel then you should go with paid advertising. Here’s another true story from my time in the city pages: Some PR department announced an event, the paper wrote about it, after which the PR dept. called and asked to add that the event is a closed event. But nothing beats the fact that every so often I get calls asking to print some info about an event in a newspaper that has not been put out in years. Once a lady called me, wanting to publish something in our sports section. I asked her when last she had seen our paper. She said “Yesterday.” The only problem was the paper hadn’t been published for six months then, and when it had been, it had never had a sports section.
Journalist D: It is very unprofessional, yet common, to call and ask, “Has anything been printed yet?” If you really need to know, buy the paper and check. It’s the same story with calls wanting to know if we got the press release.
7. Anything positive?
Journalist C: One positive thing is that I get more and more information from online press bureaus. I just get the title, the lead and a link where I can find the whole text with pictures and graphics. It’s really helpful, especially that such emails are not large and I can also go back to them.
Journalist B: There are tour guides in Warsaw that give such great previews of their city walks on their blogs or social media, packed with interesting facts and tidbits of information, that making a story out of it is a breeze. Some PR pros have taken their cue and now successfully imitate this style in their press releases.
Journalist D: Calling may not always be bad. Sometimes we get a poorly written press release, but later the PR dept. or an agency calls and clarifies or fills in on some info that for some reason was omitted. And it turns out that that’s exactly what we’ve been missing for the article.
Journalist B: Yes, but before you call you must know what you want to talk about. Most calls I receive start with: “Hello, we sent you a press release about the premiere of XYZ. I just wanted to know if you got it. Is there a chance it’ll get published? Did you find it interesting?” It always starts like this.
Summing up the answers to question “how to write a good press release for an event”
The first thought that comes to mind after reading this is that a big part of creating effective press releases is the ability to think critically about your every project. The other, showing any signs of automating your tasks in contacts with the press is a sure recipe for disaster. But to truly sum up this article, I would like to share an advice given to me by my first PR boss when I was starting out – “The key to success is to know and like the media. Getting to know the way they work, their office realities, and listening to their anecdotes about their experiences with PR pros.” Just like the ones shared above. Today, I can honestly say that following this advice has brought much better results than learning from my own mistakes.