One thing I came across in my Kickstarter campaign research was the importance of having a press release. Having literally zero experience in public relations or journalism I had no idea such a thing even existed. In order to understand them further my yuppie autopilot took me to wikipedia: “A press release is a written or recorded communication directed at members of the news media for the purpose of announcing something ostensibly newsworthy.” Journalists are bombarded (read: assaulted?) daily with press releases on various topics so I knew that I’d have to read up on the do’s and don’ts of PR so my release wouldn’t end up in the bin of misfit press releases.
After reading through a few examples of press releases I found on the internet, I started to write my own. To me, it seemed pretty contrived to write your own press release, but when in Rome I suppose… If I really want to promote my project, I should make it as easy as possible for journalists to write articles about it. As a professor of mine in graduate school always said, “Make no demands on the reader” so I suppose this situation applies to that lesson. I want everyone from Outside Magazine to my hometown newspaper, The Bangor Daily News to cover this project so hopefully writing a press release is the first step in that direction. From my internet research, here are some of the things that I learned:
- Develop a Newsworthy Angle. Reporters don’t care about you, your project, or helping you with your project. All they care about is a story. How is your story different from everything else they’ve written about and how will them writing your story help them or their newspaper/magazine/blog stand out?
- The Title. Your title should be attention grabbing: “Alpine Hammocks – Redefining Fast and Light Mountain Travel”. Will this grab their attention? Again journalists might read dozens of press releases each day and many times the title can be the gatekeeper to them reading on or tossing it in the n00b bin.
- The Subtitle. Often the press release contains a subtitle centered under the title. It’s more of a short sentence than anything which expands a bit on your Title: “Two young engineers from Boston design the first ever “alpine style” hammock.” This makes it newsworthy because IT’S THE FIRST EVER of something, i.e. it’s so trendy no-one knows about it yet, i.e. you should probably read this article, go to their project page, and give them money :)
- Have a Good Lead. The first sentence must grab the reader in the same way as your title. Will they keep reading after the first sentence? Much like the Kickstarter video, people’s attention spans on the internet are continually approaching zero so it’s important to get your point across quickly: ” The Alpine Hammock is a weatherproof one-man shelter that can be used both as a traditional hammock as well as a traditional bivy sack.” Hopefully at this point you’ve covered what the news is, why it’s news, and why they should keep reading.
- The Body of the Release. The rest of the body should include text that backs up the claims made in the lead. It is common to include quotes from the project creators or experts/lead users (preferably with street cred) of the product.
- The Ending. It is important to end the press release with a call to action: “Check out the Alpine Hammock on Kickstarter.com and you might be among the first in the world to travel in the mountains with an Alpine Hammock.”
- The Footer. The example below is pretty standard in the journalism industry, include three hashtags (pound signs if you’re not social media savvy) as well as your contact info for interviews and media requests:
I’ve developed two different press releases, one for outdoor-gear related media (more techy/gear nerdy) and one for the general media (more of a personal story). Check them out:
Lastly, here are some links that helped me find the information above: