Having studied journalism and working as a journalist before joining Rountree Group, I have the mindset of a reporter and editor first and foremost. That perspective has proven valuable as a public relations practitioner on many levels. In addition to priding myself on being a good writer (yep, now I’m sure to make a writing error here since I’ve set myself up!), I have a real sense of the difference between communicating what a company has to offer and pure selling.
I’ve read more press releases thinly disguised as a sales pitch than I care to count. Or worse, that are blatant. If a press release reads like copy for a commercial, for example, hand it over to the sales department to use, not to a news editor. If you use the words “we” and/or “us” in a press release, you kill the neutrality aspect a press release should have. Delete them. That’s not to say your release shouldn’t tout the benefits your company’s goods or services bring.
The press release should focus on an aspect of the company’s goods or services that is new or different, with a “why now” element that substantiates the timeliness of the press release. It should include all of the details to tell the full story. But remember, if it’s not a documented fact you’re writing about, decide if it’s appropriate to write and at least attribute it to a company spokesperson instead or don’t include it.
That’s not to say there’s no place for the sales pitch in a press release. Do you know the only place where it belongs? The boilerplate. The boilerplate is the short “about us” organization’s use to describe themselves that appears at the bottom of a press release. NOTE that in public relations, the press release content and the boilerplate are separated by three pound signs (###) to distinguish the two.
The boilerplate is the quick pitch a company would use to sell itself and often includes facts about the company, its history and, briefly, its achievements. Again, brevity is key. Generally speaking, the boilerplate will not appear in an article or story about the company. It’s there to provide the journalist receiving the press release needed background on the company.
As with the press release itself, avoid using “us” and “we” in the boilerplate. Although you may represent the company that is the subject of the press release, neutrality is still important. Your role is to communicate about the company, but not as a biased employee of that company. Pause to read through the boilerplate before just inserting it at the end of a press release. Are the “us” and “we” removed? Does the company have more, or fewer, locations now than mentioned in the boilerplate? Does it include the number of years old the company is? As mentioned earlier, this is the background journalists use to learn more about the company. Oftentimes there are things within the boilerplate that need updating. The start of a new year is an especially good time to review it. Make sure it’s always current and accurate and written as well as the press release itself.
For help with writing press releases and telling your company’s story, contact Rountree Group. Our experienced team is ready with new ideas, experience and the skills you need to propel your company to greater visibility in 2020. Reach out to Don Rountree at 770-645-4545 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Lisa Hester, Senior Account Manager