I know you’re busy, so I’ll be very brief.
Most press releases fail because they are based on terrible ideas, which are poorly executed. There are two parts to that equation. Idea generation is first and execution is second.
In this post I will share the best tips to simply–and forever–improve the quality of the press release ideas you generate.
Start with a raw idea
Simply, what is your press release about? Are you:
- Announcing jobs.
- Starting a new service.
- Breaking into a new market.
- Criticising someone or something, maybe you’re calling them to account.
- Welcoming something.
- Calling for something.
- Revealing new survey results.
- Highlighting a trend.
Once you’ve identified your raw idea ask yourself these questions:
- Why is it unique?
- What’s so good about it?
- What makes it different or noteworthy?
- Why will it stand out?
- Has it any numbers involved in it? Investment of money? Increased percentages? More jobs?
When finished you should be able to answer the question: What is your press release about?
For this example I will take a press release that I have worked on. I was announcing the move by an Irish multinational forklift manufacturer to a new headquarters in an old chicken factory.
Find the hook for your idea.
You have a raw idea for your story, but that’s all it is. Remember the success equation: Raw idea + hook = successful story. Let’s look at what it means in practice.
My raw idea is: My company is expanding and I want to announce my new headquarters in an old factory building in a small town.
My raw idea is that I want to announce the growth of my company. By asking the key questions about my raw idea, I figured out the following.
My move to the new headquarters will create 100 jobs over three years.
- I have invested serious money in the new building–about €10 million.
- Our new headquarters is our global headquarters.
- Starting a new service
You can see that I have plenty to go on.
Shape the information into a headline.
So far you’ve done some thinking and probing to find a raw idea. You’ve fleshed out the idea, and now you’re going to write a headline–or more crucially– headlines. What you haven’t done is write a release yet. This is a common pitfall. People try to retrofit a headline on a terrible press release. The best way to write a headline is to practice and to write more than a few. I find that if I dedicate some time to this amongst the attempts will be the ‘right’ headline.
So let’s look at some headline attempts for our example.
- Combilift announce move to new headquarters that will create new jobs.
- New jobs in switch to new Combilift headquarters.
- New jobs and substantial investment for Monaghan with new Combilift facility.
- €10 million investment to deliver new jobs and new headquarters for Combilift.
- 100 new jobs and €10 million investment for Monaghan with new Combilift manufacturing facility.
Which one did we pick? The last one. It always takes a few attempts to get it right. The only way to do it is to iterate. Once you have the headline you’re ready to start writing the press release. In my next post I will share the secrets of how to write a great release.
Once you have agreed on the headline–you should ask yourself these three questions:
Is it any good? Also ask a very honest colleague (not a cheerleader).
- If you sent it out would anybody be interested?
- Who would be interested? What specific journalists or type of journalist? Be as specific as you can.
It is worth noting that this is a simple, yet ruthless process. For ideas to be successful they require honesty. I regularly give a course on how to write press releases and I pose these three questions. I describe it as the ‘Alcoholics Anonymous’ approach to press release writing. I asked a room of students to put their next great press release idea to the test by answering the questions. About halfway around the room a woman looked at me with a very furrowed brow. “Don’t all laugh everyone, but my new press release idea is that I’m taking a bus of children from the charity I work for to the Zoo on Friday.” There was a pause and an awkward silence. “Is it a good idea,” I enquired. “No, it’s terrible,” she shot back in an instant. “Why are you doing it then?” I asked. She adopted a resigned look and said: “Because they expect me to.” And when she said they she meant the charity’s senior management. And in that story lies an essential truth that affect hundreds of press releases every day that are killed before they start by fussy CEOs, or a committee approval, or a busy body legal team or some other excuse.
It’s simple–follow the steps and improve your idea generation and you’ll get much better results. Just wait and see.
For posterity here’s the full Combilift release.
Thursday, June 22nd 2006.
100 new jobs and €10 million investment for Monaghan with new Combilift manufacturing facility
Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Micheal Martin TD today (Thursday, 22nd June, 2006) officially opened the new €10 million headquarters of Irish company Combilift in Monaghan town, which will create 100 new jobs over the next three years bringing total staff numbers to 250. A high proportion of the new jobs will be high-skilled requiring technical and engineering qualifications.
Combilift manufactures the world’s first engine-powered, all wheel drive, multi-directional forklift. The company was set up in Clontibret, Co Monaghan in 1998 by entrepreneurs Martin McVicar and Robert Moffett. In just eight years the company has grown to become the global market leader in the long-load handling market. The company has developed a unique and innovative, space-saving forklift for materials handling, which solves the issue of needing a number of forklifts to handle long and awkward loads.
Minister Martin said: “Today’s official opening of Combilift’s new facility is tremendous news for Monaghan, Ireland and particularly the BMW region. The international successes of Combilift, and other Irish entrepreneurial companies, is a foundation stone of Ireland’s remarkable economic performance over the last 10 years.”
Commenting on the announcement today, Martin McVicar, Managing Director of Combilift, said: “This new facility in Monaghan will help us to strengthen our position in global markets by developing our product range, and significantly expanding our ability to produce up to one unit per hour.
Combilift exports 94% of all its forklifts to over 45 countries around the world with India and Dubai being the latest markets to be developed. Between 2006 and 2010 the company predicts that exports will increase from €60 to €100 million. The United States accounts for almost 30% of the company’s sales followed by the United Kingdom and France.
Martin McVicar attributes the company’s success to a strong link between research, product development and exports, creating innovative products that customers need. “We maintain a very close link between research and development and marketing so the two functions are always connected. This means everything we do is driven by our customers’ needs and we’re always first to market with what we’re offering,” he concluded.
For further information please contact Jack Murray on: 087 2256090.
Note for Editor
Combilift was founded by entrepreneurs Martin McVicar and Robert Moffett in Clontibret, Co Monaghan in 1998. It manufactured the world’s first engine-powered, all wheel drive multidirectional forklift. Substantial year on year growth of more than 20% has seen the company transformed from a small manufacturer of a niche product into a major brand name in the global forklift truck market. Combilift exports to over 45 countries worldwide. 2006 turnover is €60 million and the company predicts it will grow to €100 million by 2010. The company currently has 150 employees and this will increase to 250 by 2010. www.combilift.com
Managing director Martin McVicar’s career in engineering started with a summer job at truck-mounted forklift manufacturers Moffett Engineering, where he became the company’s chief engineer before the age of 20. When the company was sold in 1997, he decided to set up his own business to develop a niche product for the materials handling sector, to solve the issue of needing a combination of forklifts to handle long and awkward loads. The outcome was the 4-way Combilift. In 2001 he was named Ernst & Young Ireland Entrepreneur of the Year.
Company Director Robert Moffett is from a family name synonymous with the success story of the Moffett Mounty truck mounted forklift. Robert played a major part in the successful development and growth of the company before it was sold. He joined forces with Martin McVicar as Technical Director to establish Combilift in 1998.
Want to ensure your press release is working as hard as you are and reaching the right people? For more information click here or call Gaye on (01) 254 1845.