What is a press release?
A press release (PR) is a brief descriptive statement issued to the media that provides basic information on a newsworthy development such as a coming event, product launch, executive hire, etc. Effective press releases are formatted to easily interlock with the minds of media types in a way that makes them want to publicize and share your info. It is important to issue a press release for an upcoming event, here is how.
Basic press release structure and practice
Your PR needs a strong headline, newsy details and top level information about your organization. It’s customary to send out a press release 7-10 days prior to your event. Of course, for your PR to have the most beneficial impact you to need to ascertain that it reaches the right journalists, reporters, news editors, bloggers, etc.
These people and their publications receive hundreds of PRs a week, so yours must offer them something tantalizing enough to a) read it; and b) broadcast it to their audiences.
A killer press release has these elements in common:
- A succinct headline and subhead, plus body copy, and a paragraph about the organization holding or sponsoring the event
- It’s formatted to one letter-size page
- It’s written in the third-person
- Has basic contact and sign-up information
Your event press release essentials
OK, here are my eight event press release must-dos calculated to help you cut through the torrent of competing press release’s that pile up daily on the desks and inboxes of the people you want to pollinate the world with your event announcement.
1. Summarize pithily
Avoid over-contextualizing your event with fluff, excessive self-promotion or corporate-speak. Explain your event’s brand story in a minimum of words, for example:
“Popsicle Drop is the annual fundraiser held by Mr. Chill’s Freezin’ Treats the proceeds of which go toward the mental and physical rehabilitation of victims of used car salesmen internationally.”
In other words, the old elevator pitch
Put this descriptor near the top of your PR such that readers can’t miss it. Include the basics – the event’s who, what, where and when. The balance contains details, key facts, and a quote or two from event directors, previous VIP guests or influential press sources.
2. Write to your audiences
In writing your PR, be sure your pitch is sufficiently wide to have the desired effect upon multiple media recipients. If that’s not workable, write different versions to suit the interests of specific publications and journalists.
Meaning, if you’re talking to a gourmet magazine about the Popsicle Drop, talk up how delicious the food & drink will be. If targeting a newspaper, focus a bit more on the good you’re doing for the event’s beneficiaries.
3. Mention the special stuff
If you’re going to have a 100ft-high champagne fountain, celebrate the daylights out of it. People love those unique touches – they are what gets shared and remembered. Find a middle ground between fact and colour – the idea being to make your event seem unusual and worth attending. If it ain’t unique, a bit kooky or fully out there, no one will care.
No need to tell everything. Tease readers with juicy details so they can’t resist further inquiry.
4. Show, don’t only tell
Use a couple of photographs and links to short videos of past events or the cool new venue you’ve rented.
5. Don’t forget the call to action
Explain how your recipients, their followers and readers can easily register for your event? Make it a single step, idiot-proof process.
6. Add your standard descriptor
Include a short “boilerplate” paragraph at the bottom of your press release. It explains your organization and its purpose. Remember that some folks may somehow have never heard of you or your event.
7. Harness the email subject line
When a press release is emailed, its subject line sets the stage, pushing the journalist to either open or delete your message. It’s as crucial to get right as the PR main header. Write out a bunch, then edit them mercilessly, eliminating all but the hardest working words. Then choose the best one, or a few, if appealing to varied targets.
8. Optimize for easy phone reading
Most recipients with read your PR on their device first. Keep it clean and simple. Don’t sent them as PDFs or links. Make it the first thing seen when the email opens, and make it fast to load
Don’t be afraid to be you
By all means, stick to format, but don’t be shy to reveal some of your true colours. If your organization is, by definition, a bit fun-oriented, like the Popsicle Drop folks, be light-hearted once or twice in your press release. Just don’t beat ‘em over the head with it. Be charming and real, minus the smarm.
Remember your readers
Journalists, editors and bloggers work insane hours, are often poorly paid and are thus dying to have fun and be entertained whenever possible. A small, subtle morsel of dry wit or humour can cut through their defensive crap-filter and make them suddenly love you and want to help you. Or at a minimum, want to read on.
When in doubt about any of this, try it out on trusted confidants before sending.