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Who, what, why? The top three things to ask yourself before writing a press release

In a world of a 24-hour news cycle, and thousands of media outlets competing for attention, getting yourself heard is no small feat. And it’s an equally overwhelming challenge for those who receive this news to work out where their next great story is. With some automotive journalists facing up to 50 press releases a day to sift through, are we giving our stories the best chance of being featured?

As a starting point, we at Red Marlin always make sure we’ve asked those three little questions before we put pen to paper – who, what, why?

1. Who is your audience?

It is so important to think about who your writing is aimed at, and what they know already. It’s not your job as a writer to tell them everything you know about a topic. It’s your job to create an action: what do you want your reader to think, feel or do? What information will they already have? And if you think you know the answer to this, are you assuming too much?

For example – will everyone understand your acronyms? They may make it easy for you as the writer, but you are taking a gamble on your reader’s interpretation. Even in the same industry, acronyms have different meanings – my views on LCVs may be very different depending on which one I’m talking about (is this light commercial vehicles or low carbon vehicles?) – why make your reader guess?

Knowing your audience means you can make your writing accessible, relevant and impactful. It also helps you tailor your content for other platforms, such as social media, press releases or blogs – each will have a different audience, and each may need a slightly different tone of voice.

2. Would your story pass the ‘so what’ test? 

Imagine you have to call a journalist to try and get them to use your story – how would you summarise it in one sentence?

To you, a story may be something to shout about, but why should other people be interested?

This isn’t to say that they won’t be, but you may be too close to a story to see why it is newsworthy. You having a new product to talk about is great news for you and your business, but for a journalist, they will be asking themselves ‘so what?’.

Make the journalist’s job as easy as possible for them, think about their readers, and find the news in your story that will be relevant and interesting to them – because that’s what the journalist is trying to do.

Is your new product the first? The biggest? The most innovative? What does your business announcement mean for the industry? For jobs? Or your local area?

If you can’t think of this hook, your story may need a rethink. That’s not to say the story should be scrapped, but you will need to reframe how you tell it – that’s where having some creative storytellers on hand can be a huge help.

Although the ‘so what’ test seems blunt, keeping it in mind when crafting your story will help you cut through the mountain of press releases a journalist has to wade through each morning, and make your story stand out – so what? here’s what!

3. Why are you sharing this news?

We’ve established that it is your job as the writer to inspire an action, but are you clear on why you want to do this before you put pen to paper?

Why are you sharing this, and why now? Do you want them to buy something? Visit your website? Change their behaviours?

Be mindful whether you are starting from scratch, or whether your audience is already in the know – and what are their current thoughts on this issue? Your approach will have to change depending on whether you are challenging them, introducing something to them, or reinforcing something they already agree with.

Whenever you are thinking about what to include, how to structure your press release or how you determine your angle, always linking it back your goal will keep you focused on achieving your aim, and it will also keep it relevant, adding value to the reader and your business.

To find out more about how we could help with your storytelling, get in touch at or give us a call on 01926 832 395. 

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