Ah, writing. It’s the one thing most business owners either hate to do, think they’re terrible at, or simply don’t have the time for. But, when it comes to getting your portfolio work published on platforms that matter (so you can sign all of those eager potential clients), writing is a key part of the process. Whether it’s a press release or a pitch letter, knowing how to write essential documents efficiently is imperative for promoting—and growing—your business. Today, then, we’ve rounded up our top tips for writing three essential PR documents. Read on…and get ready to write like your brand depends on it.
1. Press Releases
Press releases are a necessary tool for engaging local media and garnering unpaid coverage for your brand. While writing one may sound intimidating, it’s actually fairly simple. The great news about press releases is that they tend to be pretty formulaic, so writing them gets easier and easier once you initially nail the process. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Follow a typical press release format. Press releases aren’t really the place to get creative. There are a few things a press release should always have (The words “For immediate release” along with your contact info in the header, the location at the beginning of your first paragraph, a boilerplate at the very end, etc.). If you’re unfamiliar with a typical press release format, you can find tons of sample releases online. Pay attention to even the smallest details as you work to mirror a sample release—you’ll notice the city should be in written in all caps while the state should be abbreviated in AP style (i.e. SAN DIEGO, Calif.) and that there should always be three pound signs (###) or the number 30 at the end of the copy (this signifies that the copy is complete). Ensuring your release is in the format media outlets are used to conveys a sense of professionalism and legitimacy.
- Use AP Style. So many things are different in AP style (not Aisle Planner style, rather the formatting style) than you may realize. For example, state abbreviations vary from the typical postal abbreviations. California is abbreviated “Calif.” in AP Style (as opposed to CA). Order an AP Stylebook and ensure you’re following AP Style rules throughout your release.
- Start with a clear news hook. The golden rule of press releases? Make sure what you’re writing is actually newsworthy. While it may be tempting to send out a press release every time you gain a new Instagram follower, you don’t want to “spam” local media outlets with releases that aren’t newsworthy. A good example of an opening sentence? “SAN DIEGO, Calif. — Picture Perfect Events, a San Diego-based wedding planning and event design company, is hosting a grand opening this Saturday, November 3 at its brand-new eco-friendly studio located at 123 Easy Street.” Your opening sentence should always give the news hook in an easy-to-follow who, what, when, where
- Include a quote from the CEO. News outlets are more likely to run your release if they have a quote they can use in the story. We recommend laying out the basic details in your first paragraph, and then starting your second paragraph with a quote from the founder or CEO. (i.e. “We’re so thrilled to open our doors to the San Diego community,” Picture Perfect Events Founder Maria LaMonte said. “Our entire team was born and raised in this city, and it feels surreal to open a design studio in the hometown that means so much to us.”
- Keep it under one page. Your press releases should never (as in, never ever) exceed one page. Media outlets are bombarded with thousands of releases each day. A surefire way to ensure yours is one of the releases that doesn’t get read is to make it too lengthy.
- End with your boilerplate. At the end of your press release, you’ll want to include a boilerplate paragraph. This is an “evergreen” paragraph (i.e. a paragraph that never changes) about your business. This is the area where you can inject a little energy and personality into the copy. You’ll use this same boilerplate in every press release you send out. (Psst…we’ll be breaking down all you need to know about boilerplates—and how to write one—next week on the pro blog. So stay tuned!)
2. Pitch Letters
A pitch letter may either be the email you send to a publication to submit a wedding for publishing, or it can be an email you send to a publication submitting a story idea for publishing. Either way, there are a few key things to keep in mind:
- Do your research. Before reaching out to a publication, make sure you know what types of stories and/or weddings they do (and do not) feature. The quickest way to show you haven’t done your research? Pitch a story idea they’ve already run or a wedding that is completely outside of the style of weddings they typically feature.
- Include details that prove you’ve done your research. Once you’re sure that what you’re pitching is in line with the publication you’re pitching it to, you can drop hints in the copy itself that communicate the fact you’ve done your research. Mention details about their target audience (and why your wedding or story idea would be a good fit for that audience), or talk about previous stories or weddings they’ve published and why you feel yours is a great complement to those stories or features.
- Offer them something. Your main goal with a pitch letter is to offer the publication something. The overall vibe of your letter should focus on what you can do for them (rather than the other way around). Oftentimes, it’s easy to fangirl out over a certain publication (especially if you’ve been following that publication for a while and are a huge fan), but, sometimes, what we view as compliments can instead come across as “I’m going to get so much out of getting published on your site!” You don’t want that. Instead, you want to show that you are reaching out to them to offer them something (an amazing wedding that’s right in line with their style, an engaging story idea that will speak to their audience, etc.).
3. Submission Write-Ups
A submission write-up is a 1-2 paragraph description that you submit to a publication (along with an image gallery) in order to get your work published. While these are short in length, there are a few surefire ways you can amp them up a bit to ensure your submission stands out from the rest:
- Make their job easy. The more well written your paragraph, the better. Editors don’t want to have to rewrite everything you’ve submitted. Double (and triple) check your submission paragraph(s) for typos. Read the copy they include with current wedding features on their website and try to mimic that same voice and writing style. The less editing they have to do to your write-up prior to publication, the more they’ll love you (and want to publish your work).
- Quality over quantity. Be thoughtful about what you include in your write-up. It’s tempting to include every last detail about an event—but this will inevitably lead to paragraph after paragraph of rambling copy. As the event planner and/or designer, you likely have tons you can say about the images you’re submitting, but do your best to keep your submission copy concise. Include unique details about the wedding or a short story about what led to the inspiration for the overall aesthetic—that’s what editors are looking for, not just pretty pictures.