Make every word count

pressme-clock-01Give your press release the best chance

When you email a press release to a publication, a journalist will look at the subject heading first.

If they don’t delete it, they’ll open the email and look at the headline and maybe read the first sentence or two.

If they haven’t deleted the email and they read on, you’ve caught their interest.

This shows that every word has to count.

Cut any padding

If there’s any waffle or padding, you’ll lose that interest.

When you’ve written your press release, check that every sentence makes a point.

Cut any that don’t make a specific point and trim any irrelevant words.

Keep your message clear

When you make every word count, your message will shine through.

How many words should I write for a press release?

As many as you need to tell the story and no more.

A short, punchy press release can sometimes cover all its news in 200-300 words, while a story needing more detail could run to 500 words or so.

What is important is that every word counts. If sentences ramble or contain incidental information that does not add much to the story, they could obscure the main message you want to get across.

Is there an absolute limit? No, although a longer press release must be enthralling or contain ground-breaking news to work. If it waffles or is stuffed with words and phrases that don’t move the story on, much is likely to be cut if a journalist has managed to read it all.

The test is to ask what every sentence or piece of information contributes. If it contributes nothing, cut it.

If a picture can paint a thousand words . . .

. . . why are they all questions?

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What is that? Where is it? When was it? Why was it there? What was the point? Who did it? Is it still there? Is that an inflatable? What gas was used to inflate it? Who chose the colours? Where did it come from? Will it be there again? Is that a mountain or a hill? Is it inland or on the coast? What are those brown patches on the hill/mountain?

That’s already 15 questions in just 72 words, so just think how many questions you could ask in a thousand words.

So does that mean words are more effective for communicating than pictures?

Of course not: both are useful in different ways. A picture or photograph can grab attention specifically because people want to find out more about a stunning image. For example, the BBC England website news page often has an ‘England’s Big Picture’ feature showing a partial image to tease viewers into opening it up to see if it is what they think it is. Stunning photography or images that tease can be useful in PR and marketing to attract people to read accompanying text.

In the same way, intriguing headlines can grab readers’ attention so that they read an accompanying article or text. News papers and websites make imaginative use of words in this way and, within reason, press releases and articles can do the same, as long as they do not mislead.

So what are more effective: words or pictures?

Neither. When applied with skill, one will not be more effective but will complement the other. If anything, a great photo will be let down by lousy writing, while a well-written article can be buried by poor illustration or layout.

When they work well together, the reader won’t take any notice of the composition of a photograph or style of writing but be totally engrossed in the message they convey.

That’s certainly our aim.

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