Writing a knockout first paragraph

So – you’ve got the basis of your story, you know who you want to tell and you’ve briefed spokespeople in case anyone requests a follow-up interview. Now all you need to do is write the press release announcing your news. That’s the easy part, right?

The answer is yes and no. Yes if you have a good, solid piece of news backed up by juicy facts and figures. No if you don’t make it clear from the outset what your news is. This is where you’ll need to deploy your knockout first paragraph. Here’s how.

Firstly work out what your most important message is and lead with that. Start with a strong headline that sums up your big news in a nutshell. Then use the first paragraph to expand on this highlight in slightly more detail. It might be a new piece of research, a product launch or a positive financial result. Whatever it is, be brief and to the point. Stick to the facts, make it succinct and use plain English.

Be sure to cut out the generic corporate fluff or less important details that are often found at the top of press releases. If these need to go in, leave them until later. Also make sure your copy is all formatted consistently – first paragraphs shouldn’t be bold or italic.

Don’t be tempted to add in your own commentary about what great news this is, either. As an example, “Acme has achieved record sales during the last financial year” is good; “The world’s leading manufacturer of products, ACME™, is delighted to report that its business development team has done fantastic work growing new markets over the last 12 months” is less so.

But why is all this so important? Surely it’s fine as long as you cram in all the information you want to get across somewhere or other?

Simply, the fact is that busy journalists don’t have time to filter the hyperbole out of press releases in an effort to work out what they’re about and if they should be interested. You need to make this easy for them by stripping it back to the facts. They see hundreds of releases every day and if you don’t catch their attention with a newsworthy ‘hook’ straight away, you won’t get another chance. Your hard work will be consigned to the recycle bin.

If you’d benefit from expert advice and support, please contact us at Red Marlin to see how we can help your communications pack a punch.

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