5 thoughts on writing great press releases

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Michelle and I attended a Silicon Cape event this week where Sarah Rice shared her experiences as a public relations consultant for rock-star companies like personal finance management site 22seven and African instant messaging giant Mxit.

Rice sowed valuable advice on relationships between startups and the media onto a hotbed of Cape Town’s bright up-and-coming startups and a lot of what was said resonated with me, especially the part that affects my job the most, communication with startups. The communication usually starts in the form of a press release.

We love press releases. Learning about new companies and tracking their progress is what Ventureburn is all about, but sometimes the noise to signal ratio gets slightly out of whack and it becomes hard to mold the content into something worth sharing with our readers — if at all.

Here are a few thoughts, mostly from our own meandering experiences, on what makes a great press release.

Style and content

Sending out a generic press release to all the media companies on your roster is tempting, but a granular approach might yield better chances of being published. Match your content to the writing style, or voice of the publication or subset of publications you are targeting.

In order to avoid Churnalism and to protect our SEO rankings, we often add perspective and rejig your press release, while ensuring that your message remains in tact.

While writing a completely unique press release for every media publication you target probably isn’t feasible, consider forming relationships with your favourite publications and providing them with exclusive content, or scoops — being first to break a news story is what publications live for.

Prioritise brevity. Keep the press release concise and try to convey the message in a conversationalist style — imagine talking to your friend over a cup of coffee. Also, reel in the hyperbole, jargon and lofty self-approbation. Readers tend to be good appraisers in and of themselves, but forming an opinion becomes hard when the message is nebulous, verbose or littered with corporate speak.

Sources

When quoting studies or reports that paint your company in a positive light, be sure to reference the sources so that publications can verify the facts. Publications have a responsibility to their readers to publish accurate information.

Readers

The relationship between startups, media publications and their readers is a symbiotic one. Publications need to publish content, but their readers deserve, good, concise and useful information. Imagine being a reader, what would you like to read?

Contribution

If you’re starting your own business, you’re probably really knowledgeable about the industry you’re entering. If it’s an industry that fits within the content of the publication you’re targeting, consider becoming a contributor. Publications usually allow you to add a biography and links to your projects. The more you contribute, the more visible you become on the publication’s site, and the higher the probability becomes that a reader will do research on you.

Relationships

Startups, publications, readers. It’s all just people. Form personal relationships and treasure them. Remember to be human.

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