Wednesday, 12 May 2021

EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT WRITING A PRESS RELEASE

“The scariest moment is always just before you start!”

Stephen King

I’m always a bit unsure about writing posts like this in case some people perceive it as though I think I’m an expert! When really, the two press releases I’ve ever written were both printed and so it is off the back of that achievement, that I would like to use my experience to provide advice and information for anyone considering writing a press release or who are just curious as to what it entails…

The confidence build-up to writing my first press release:

In 2017, I got my first voluntary role in the industry I’d ultimately like to have a career focused on (media, publicity, marketing etc) when the support group for the unwaged; Listening Ear And Positive Support (LEAPS), appealed for an ‘Advertising Assistant’ on do-it.org. Not having any real formal experience wasn’t a huge reluctance to apply for the position, because at that point, I’m NOT Disordered was doing really well in popularity and that supported me being offered some incredible opportunities and collaborations with some really well-known organisations, (which varied from Northumbria Police to Oliver Bonas!). So, I felt fairly confident and capable of taking on my first role in that industry.

I think that my one difficulty in starting with LEAPS was just the unknown. I mean, I had an impression in my head as to what the role might entail and what I believed to be my new responsibilities, but would the members and the Committee of LEAPS have the same expectations? Everyone in the group had known one another for at least eight years at that point (LEAPS was founded in 2009), so would they take well to a whole new person giving advice on what they should be doing to build on the reputation and publicity of the group?

As it turned out, over the following three years, it wasn’t just about me advising the group, I also learnt a lot in that time which gave me the knowledge and confidence to try my hand at other, completely unfamiliar tasks, which were still relevant to my role.

After having made a successful application to the R W Mann Trust for funding, I spontaneously decided to try my hand at applying to The National Lottery Community Fund and I could not have been more excited and proud when I heard the bid was successful (you can read about that grant here)! It was honestly a huge boost to my confidence and not just that, I felt as though I had really done well for the group. I mean, anyone who knows me will know I have a very difficult time in recognising being deserving of something, so I felt like in securing that funding, I had really earnt my place in the organisation and on the Committee.

That confidence boost then led to my interest and passion in researching more about writing press releases…

The research:

As with so many things in life, I googled ‘how to write a press release’ and found a very intimidating 1,300,000,000 results!

I think that the first important aspect in doing research like this, is that you have to be willing to take on tips and advice. You have to have swallowed your pride in recognising that you need help and be willing and able to take on board the things which you might not have thought of yourself.

I won’t lie, it was kind of something I struggled with – the notion of having to get help from someone or from somewhere else. This has mostly been because I’ve found that I’m the type of person who often has to learn something the ‘hard’ way. I usually need to really experience a thing and have it impact my life in some way, before I can learn something which another person could just attempt to tell me as fact.

I think that a huge part of my enjoyment in doing the research and developing my knowledge and understanding of writing a press release was my perfectionist instincts. My urge to always be successful in everything I do. I mean, a lot of the time, it’s actually a really difficult trait because having such high hopes and expectations almost seems to set me up for disappointment. As though sometimes no level of achievement or success will be a match for what I had hoped would happen.

On the other hand, those perfectionist thoughts and feelings can also be a strength; particularly in scenarios where I need to learn more about something. It provides me with motivation to not only do well with whatever I’m doing, but also, to have the drive to continue to do better. I think this has really helped in my blogging and my mindset that I always want to improve my content in creating something new and unique. The perfectionism fuels my dedication in continuing to learn, and my passion in wanting to improve things.

So, it meant that when I decided to write my first press release (about the lottery funding for LEAPS), I wasn’t put-off by the notion that I’d need to put a lot of time into doing the research and a lot of effort into actually soaking in the information and taking all the tips and advice on board…

In ignoring my fear that providing the links which I found the most helpful, will send you away from this post, here are the three which really contributed to my writing of a press release:

1.       https://www.procopywriters.co.uk/2015/09/how-to-write-an-effective-press-release/

2.       https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/press-release-template-ht

3.       https://blog.justreachout.io/how-to-write-press-release/

Your headline…

Ø  Shouldn’t be ambiguous

Ø  Should be clear and simple

Ø  Is used to draw the reader’s attention

The introduction should be…

Ø  An opportunity for the reader to become invested in the piece

Ø  Aimed at the press and not their readers

Ø  Inclusive of: Who? What? When? Where? Why?

The bulk of the text should…

Ø  Remember editors usually edit from the bottom up so have essential information first

Ø  Use the beginning to focus on most newsworthy aspects to maintain the reader’s attention

Ø  Use a quote which serves to strengthen the press release and its credibility

Finish your press release with…

Ø  Contact information for the reader to ask any questions/find out more

Ø  Any important information e.g., product or event details etc.

Ø  Any clarifying points

My thoughts on the essential qualities for writing a press release:

Whilst the structure of your press release is very obviously so important and is usually the deciding factor as to whether or not the story is picked up and published; I believe there are some equally important factors in writing the release…

Ø  Passion, determination, and dedication

Initially, I had these three qualities as separate ones, but then I thought that they’re all so related to one another it’s more fitting that I discuss them together…

It’s no secret that I have a huge passion for blogging, and social media (I mean, I must do to have been blogging for over eight years!) and that I’m a huge advocate for raising awareness of the benefits they can have on a person’s mental health. I mean, there are so many stories about online bullying and trolling and the devastating impacts it can have on a person’s life, but it’s very rare that you hear of a success story or an achievement connected to the digital world.

This passion to improve this aspect of publicity also provides me with the determination to take the steps needed to make these improvements. It’s the reason why I maintain being open and honest on social media, because I’m hopeful that in doing so, it will help others. And this has gone over into my book too; the hope that writing about blogging in such a promotional way, will encourage others to try their hand at it and then possibly benefit from it as much as I have.

Having that determination and passion in helping others has added to my dedication with these things and it’s a huge reason why you’ll very rarely hear me complain about having to stay up late to finish a blog post or losing track of notifications on social media. A lot of people see my blogging as ‘work’ and I always say that implies there’s a reluctance to it or that it’s a bit of a chore to do. And it isn’t. At all. I thoroughly enjoy it and would honestly do it 24/7 if I could!

Being determined, being dedicated, and having that passion for what your press release is focused on can really shine through the piece no matter how many paragraphs you have or how much punctuation you’ve used! Reading someone writing about what they’re interested in and the thing that means a lot to them, can be very compelling. Your passion can also be perfectly illustrated in your use of quotes or in your pitch in the email which the release is attached to.

Ø  Knowledge, understanding and confidence

This one takes us back to the researching aspect of writing a press release except that it is true for the actual piece; in that you shouldn’t send your release without having done relevant research in the subject you’re covering.

I find this hugely relevant where I may be tempted to write something controversial on my blog or on social media because I have the belief that unless you can appreciate all the people who may disagree; and unless you’re prepared to respect their thoughts and opinions and understand the possibility of their thoughts sometimes being derogatory or told to you in an aggressive manner, then maybe you shouldn’t speak up. And I’m a firm believer that this shouldn’t be the case – you shouldn’t have to be willing to experience, basically, harassment; for speaking up about something you’re passionate about.

My other thought around this is that those other people who are speaking up, may have done their research and have a very intense knowledge of the subject being discussed. Getting into a conversation on that subject after having done your research, will see you strong-armed in any instances you may want to respond to and that should bolster your confidence.

In writing a press release, it’s so important that you have a secure understanding of what you’re writing about because there’s always the chance that you may be asked questions for more details and information. Feeling that you have an adequate understanding of the knowledge required can shine through your press release in illustrating how interested you are in the topic.

 Ignorance is not always bliss.

My News Post Leader press release:

LOCAL MENTAL HEALTH BLOGGER HAS ALMOST ONE MILLION READERS AND A NEW BOOK! 

A Blogger from Blyth, Aimee Wilson, has almost reached one million readers on her mental health blog and has just released a book encouraging others to try their hand at blogging in a bid to help their mental health in the same way it has aided Aimee’s recovery.  

After experiencing abuse during her teenage years, Aimee’s mental health deteriorated over the following two years before she was hospitalised after her first suicide attempt in 2009. After three years of numerous hospital admissions, a further suicide attempt in 2012, left her on life support in the Intensive Care Unit of the Royal Victoria Infirmary. 

Being brought out of the coma, Aimee was sent to a specialist psychiatric hospital over 100 miles away in Bradford. One year into her admission, Aimee created her mental health: www.imnotdisordered.co.uk in the hope that it would improve the knowledge of her loved ones and enable them to continue to support her. Within months though, her blog had reached thousands of people and by 2015, Aimee was hosting an event to celebrate reaching over 100,000 readers. 

Of the blog’s popularity, Aimee said “I sometimes feel terrible for not having more faith in my blog from the offset, but I honestly believe I couldn’t have ever imagined I’m NOT Disordered being at the point it is now with almost one million readers! It’s so surreal.” 

After discovering the power and benefit blogging had on her mental health recovery, Aimee began working on a book with the intention of encouraging others to use blogging – or even just writing – as a coping mechanism when they’re struggling. She also felt it important to publicise the positives social media can have rather than the negatives which are so regularly spoken about. 

“I hope that my book and the resources and advice in it, can prevent others from learning things the way I did – the hard way!” Aimee said of her book which is titled Everything Disordered and is available to buy on Amazon now! https://amzn.to/2PQesie

What it was edited down to:

Coping with a ‘No’:

Writing a press release can very obviously involve the potential of disappointment where a media platform don’t pick up the release or run it.

Most often, where the news desk isn’t interested in your release, they don’t contact you to let you know, to give you feedback or reasons as to why it didn’t make the cut. In a way, this can be difficult because sometimes – even where the answer is a no – it can be helpful to just have some sort of response as a type of closure.

In the unlikely event that you are given an actual ‘no’ in writing/email, I’d like to give you the reassurance not to assume that it’s anything personal – though I recognise this is easier said than done (because I’ve made that same assumption!). It seems so natural for a lot of people that when they’re met by a response – no matter what it is – they look to themselves to find some sort of accountability, blame, and responsibility. For me, I tend to do this almost automatically since I couldn’t confront nor bring consequences on the one person who was really responsible for my trauma. So, with a desperate urge and need to portion some sort of blame, I got into the habit of looking to myself to do that.

Coping with edits:

For every single one of my appearances on TV (ITV, BBC News, Dispatches…) I’ve been hit with the notion that the media tend to massively slice and dice when it comes to editing a piece – whether it be a TV interview, or a press release!

The first time this happened, in my ITV interview, I was definitely disappointed and hugely disheartened. It left me thinking ‘what was the point?!’ They’d spent hours filming in my home – interviewing me, capturing ‘B-roll’ of me and my cat, and footage of my self-harm scars, and then it was cut down to between one to two minutes!

Honestly? My gut reaction was to be insulted! My mind was completely overwhelmed by numerous aggressive thoughts that everything I had said which had been edited out, had been useless and worthless. I literally wracked my brain trying to remember exactly what I had said – word for word – so that I could really pinpoint where I’d gone wrong; what I had said that made my interview unworthy of being aired in full.

Thankfully, I have some amazing support in the form of an unconditionally loving mum who reassured me that there was no way they could have used absolutely all of the footage when it was a three-to-four-minute slot in the local news! This not only soothed my self-deprecating thoughts and feelings, but also ended up providing me with gratitude that at least I had been featured and not completely cut out!

In writing my first press release, I kind of assumed that if a newspaper picked it up, it would just be printed in its entirety but even just as text, it was edited to cut bits out and rephrase a few sentences. It was another learning curve which initially insulted me and my writing ability, before realising (for myself this time and without the guidance of others!) that I’m not a Journalist and this wasn’t a dig that I maybe missed some punctuation etc.

Rationalising the catastrophizing part of your brain is probably one of the biggest challenges in mental health, but it’s actually really crucial in protecting yourself from becoming reluctant to write any more press releases based on the fact that one was edited.

Coping With a ‘Yes’:

This is probably the side that some people might not have thought about covering in this post but having had the only two press releases I’ve ever written, published; I’ve personally come to experience a difficulty in coping when this has happened.

For me, it’s mainly been about coping with the positive feedback from others. People saying “congratulations” and “well done!” I’m definitely someone who doesn’t take praise easily because my mind seems to automatically come up with an unlimited number of counterarguments to absolutely anything nice people have to say. I think that I can only really absorb and accept such lovely comments when I can see those things for myself – when I can see that I have written a good blog post or that I was well composed and efficient in a presentation or an interview. For me, recognising achievements and successes for myself has a bigger impact on me than being told I’ve been successful and have achieved something from others (as much as I greatly appreciate their words too!).

So, I guess, that a key method to coping with praise and positive feedback is to look inside yourself and find a way to really accept and recognise the comments rather than trying to pick holes and find contradictions with them. It’s also equally important that if you are to take that kindness on board, you should always remain grounded by remembering how it all began. Where you started and what your priorities are.

Gratitude:

In staying grounded, you may find a ton of overwhelming gratitude for all of the people and all of the things which have helped you get to where you are now…

Seeing my face in print and my press releases be printed, my gratitude isn’t only for the Journalists and all those involved in the process of the publishing of the release. It’s also been about all the readers of I’m NOT Disordered because without my blog’s popularity, I wouldn’t have built the confidence and understanding to do something like write a press release and feature on the various media platforms.

I’m very ‘big’ on saying thank you to the people who have made a difference in your life, so from the bottom of my heart, thank you all.