So which would you rather read?  A press release or a story?

My guess is, like most people, you’d much rather read a story.  What’s the difference?

A press release is factual, usually promotional to encourage readers to take notice of the organisation or individual that’s being written about and frequently appears to be a bit dry.

A story has a beginning, middle and end and is more satisfying to read. 

BUT – why couldn’t a press release also be a story?

There’s no reason why it shouldn’t, but that requires a bit of planning and careful crafting to take some potentially dry facts and maybe a quote or two and turn them into something that people will want to read.

On the plus side, making that effort should also win you points with the editor too – as their focus is entertaining and informing their readers.  They’ll have less work to do to polish your piece up if you’ve already put it in story form.

Get the structure right

A title/headline that will encourage people to read.  You need to spend time on getting this right, although it doesn’t necessarily have to be written first.  Sometimes something will emerge from your story as you work on it. 

When people are consuming newspapers, journals, or magazines they tend to read the headline for each article before deciding if they want to read the rest, so the headline is the hook you throw out to catch readers.

An opening paragraph that will set the scene.  The ‘once upon a time there was a beautiful princess …’ part that draws the reader in and makes them want to know what comes next.

A build up to the climax.  A good story takes the reader on a journey, giving them bits of information as the story develops.  This is your opportunity to explain facts, provide statistics (and their source) and educate your reader.

The end.  ‘And they lived happily ever after’ – for a press release is more likely to be a conclusion – the so-what of the story, the point, the pulling together of all the facts, figures and information.

My tips

Be sure you do have a good story that people will be interested in. 

Don’t fall into the trap of writing over-descriptive prose, just because you’re writing a story.

Don’t be tempted to embellish and extend it.  A good press release should be no more than two pages, double-spaced, including the headers, footers and notes for the editor.

Do write concisely and, when you’ve written it go back and edit to ensure it’s sharp and polished.

Resist the urge to directly promote your business.  If the publication is willing they may put your contact details at the end, but a sales pitch or even a strong promotional statement is the fastest way to the recycling bin!