With the rise in the use of social media by projects and their audiences how can we still communicate to classic press? Once you have spotted the media that is likely to communicate about your project ideas and results, how do you manage to catch their attention?
As a communication assistant on European research projects at Sparks & Co, I realised how essential it is to communicate with simple words to a public who doesn’t know the meaning of “stem cells” or “antimicrobial resistance”, for example. The first people you should inform about a project are journalists. Whether they are specialised or not in the field you are working on, you have to make a clear and quickly understandable press release.
Why use press releases?
Press releases are the most used tools to send information to press editors. Often overlooked, press releases are nevertheless a very interesting tool, provided that we know some of the major principles. Above all else, a press release is used to generate credibility for your project and consortium, to give it a stature, to build long-term communication and strengthen your image in relation to your competitors, and above all, it is free visibility!
You can make a press release for a launch of your scientific results, commercial events, strategic recruitment… But beware, too much information kills the impact so do not send press releases too often for unimportant events or they won’t have the expected effect. By sending a press release you should aim for a long term impact!
6 Tips for writing an effective press release
Today, for the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, the date which celebrates the fundamental principles of press freedom, we are going to deliver you a few tips to improve your press release writing skills :
1.Keep it short!
First of all, you have to know that to be considered an effective document, a paper should not exceed one page, or if it is too hard for you, two pages at the very maximum.
Otherwise, you have not summarised the key points correctly. Define the key message of your release and stick to it. If you want to complete your press release by offering the journalist to know more about your project, your consortium and your scientific results, perhaps write a separate press kit.
2. Highlight your logo
Your document must be identifiable at first glance. The journalist mustn’t waste time finding out who sent him the paper/email, they receive a huge amount of press releases every day. Place your logo (or project name if you do not have a logo yet) at the top of the document, clearly visible.
3. A killer title
The title of your press release must summarize in 1 sentence all your paper. This catchphrase must be striking : play on words (be careful, you still have to be taken seriously), a key figure (e.g. 20,7 million people are affected by Type 1 Diabetes worldwide) or other methods of grabbing the journalist’s attention.
It is the first element on which you have to work as it is the the first one the journalist will perceive. From just the simple title the interest that the journalist will give to your press release is influenced.
4. A catchy first sentence
This short paragraph (2-3 lines) must summarize in a few lines all of the content of the press release, which must be remembered by the journalist.
It has to answer the 5W questions :
– Who ?
– What ?
– When ?
– Where ?
– Why ?
5. Be concise
Treat one idea by paragraph. Develop the most important information in the first paragraphs and keep the less essential information for the end. That way the journalist is more likely to pick up the key message of your press release!
Add titles at the beginning of the paragraph with the main ideas to keep in mind. And if possible, put in pictures illustrating your words.
6. A practical conclusion
Here at the end of the press release you will find all the practical details: contact, project name and website, and any other details you want the journalist to know. Aim high but be realistic in your expectations, it may take you a few attempts and a bit of chasing to achieve your goal of widespread press coverage!
Every year dozens of events are held at an international level to celebrate World Press Freedom Day. At Sparks & Co, our way of celebrating that, is by sharing with you the main tips to write a convincing press release. For other ways of interacting with media, keep an eye out on our social media pages and through our projects!