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How to write a press release

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20th Apr 2010
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Nicola Draper unveils the secrets of crafting an effective press release that will get press coverage for your firm.

A well crafted press release, if picked up by the media, can be worth its weight in gold in terms of publicity for your firm. Not for nothing do the top accountancy firms have huge dedicated press departments churning out regular releases. Since accountants typically don't have much experience of writing in this way, this article will offer some handy hints for those looking to create their own press releases.

  1. Have a story as the basis of your press release – i.e. something that is newsworthy. It can be a comment on something that has happened, such as a tax increase (if you act very fast), but make sure it’s something relevant and up to date.
     
  2. Always write in the third person. Make sure your spelling is exemplary and that names and numbers are correct.
     
  3. Don’t just write about yourself or your firm – try to find something that will be of interest or benefit to the reader. Very few readers are interested in you per se, while only specialist accounting publications will be interested in topics such as how to get a new practice partner. Try to think about what it is the readers of the publication would be interested in and how your expertise can help them.
     
  4. Think about your target audience and write your press releases accordingly. It’s highly unlikely the press release you write for your local paper is going to suit the Financial Times. For example, a press release on a change in import duty on widgets is not going to make it into the pages of the Salisbury Times, but a story on the impact of the proposed rate rises for local businesses might. Tailor your releases for different markets.
     
  5. If you have a story (and the fact that your practice has a new computer system isn’t a story, unless the server is on the moon), make sure it says ‘PRESS RELEASE’ and includes the date at the top.
     
  6. Come up with a compelling headline and try to keep it to 15 words or less. A headline like ‘ABC Accountancy services can advise on estate planning’ is unlikely to grab attention, but something like ‘Government national insurance rises will devastate small firms’ will spark interest.
     
  7. Remember the five Ws: who, what, where, when and why. Try to answer as many of these questions in the first paragraph as you can, before expanding on the details in the second/third paragraph. The journalist will want to know what is unique or new about your story and why it will appeal to their readers. Then, back up your claims with facts and statistics in the following paragraphs.
     
  8. In the last paragraph, include a quote from someone from your firm about the story (even if that someone is yourself). For example: “I think small businesses, which have been having a dreadful time, will be horrified when they realise this, said Keith Hallam, senior partner of ABC Accountancy". When you send the press release, make sure that this person is available for comment if the journalist wants to find out more.

    Another point when including a quote is to ensure that the last sentence offers some hope of a solution to whatever the problem/issue the release has raised and a call to action. For example: “I fear that many will simply go under. They can take some action now to alleviate the problem, perhaps by…It is quite complicated under Revenue rules but not impossible and I urge them to seek advice now before it is too late”.
     

  9. Avoid jargon. Just because you know what a SIPP is, don’t assume that the reader knows. Try to keep everything in plain English and explain any abbreviations in brackets.
     
  10. The whole press release should, if possible, fit on one A4 page or two at a maximum. On average, 250 words is great, 500 words is ok but go over this and you should think about cutting it down.
     
  11. Plain text is better if you’re sending it by email, keep it all in one type face and avoid links or embedded html code.
     
  12. Finish off with details such as dates, times, and how to contact you– this only needs to be brief, and should be the details you’d like to see in print.
     
  13. If sending by email, make sure you include the press release in the body of the email and not as an attachment, as most journalists won't open attachments from people they don't know and that could mean your release doesn't get read.
     
  14. Make sure you send it to the right person. It will probably take a bit of research on the phone and online to get the right list for your database, which you should update every four to five months.
     
  15. There is a bit of a debate as to whether to send pictures. Some advise sending one as part of the email in low resolution, whereas others suggest providing a link to your website where journalists can access the photos. However, sending lots of high resolution pictures that clog up the recipient’s inbox won’t make you popular.
     
  16. Once it's sent, be patient. Don’t pester the editor/journalist with calls to see if they got the release. If they're interested, they'll call you."Clients often want to put everything in a press release: How the business started, how it’s grown, when and why their eldest son joined the firm, that they have spent millions on a new computer system, etc. This approach doesn't work", says journalist Jeanne Griffiths, who has worked both in PR and on newspapers. "You have to try and get in the mind of the reader, i.e. ‘what’s in this for me? Should I read it?’ If you can answer those questions you’re almost there".

"Clients often want to put everything in a press release: How the business started, how it’s grown, when and why their eldest son joined the firm, that they have spent millions on a new computer system, etc. However, I know from experience that this doesn't work", says journalist Jeanne Griffiths, who has worked both in PR and for newspapers.

There are really two sorts of release, explains Griffiths: Fast and slow. For example, a press release commenting on an event like the Budget should go out that night or next day at the latest. A future-looking release of say, what X party might do for small businesses can go out at any time before the election.

By making sure your press release is relevant, succinct and delivered at an appropriate time, you'll position yourself for the best possible coverage.
 
Nicola Draper runs
Draper Hinks, a broker firm specialising in the buying and selling of accountancy firms across the UK.

Jeanne Griffiths is a freelance journalist and PR, specialising in financial services.

 

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Steve pipe
By Steve Pipe
20th Apr 2010 10:44

Examples of press releases that work

If it helps I have a selection of press releases that accountants have successfully used in he past.

As well as being useful examples, several of them are readily re-usable 

So if anybody wants them, email me on [email protected] and I will send them to you with pleasure.

STEVE

PS  When I was in practice well over half of all my new clients came as a direct result of press releases - so I can vouch for them working!

 

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