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For Press Releases: Stick to the Facts

Drafting a press releases is a somewhat formulaic process. It is a brief missive, meant to convey a singular and central point. Its brevity and format square with the media’s expectations.

For instance:

  • Ex. 1: John Johnston is now a partner at XYZ Law Firm.
  • Ex. 2: Rich Richardson has been named to the “Awesome Lawyers” list for 2012.

One of the most flagrant fouls in all of PR is to add descriptors and sentences that not only have no bearing on the matter at hand, but also detract from the central point and often are factually unverifiable.

Here, is a humorous but dead-on (minus the varnish part) speech that serves as an apt template for press releases as spoken by the character Ron Swanson (played by Nick Offerman) on Parks & Recreation:

As the cheerless Sgt. Friday on Dragnet would say, “Just the facts, ma’am.”

Here are a few modifications that, while creative, are ultimately detrimental to our central points as illustrated in examples one and two.

  • Ex. 1 Revised: John Johnston, one of Seattle’s top labor and employment attorneys, is now a partner at XYZ Law Firm.

Problem: Who says he is the “top?” The justification for this kind if statement is often, “Well, he has been named to several ‘best’ lists.”  Johnston may be great, but there will never be a way to verify this and so it needs to be removed.

  • Ex. 2 Rich Richardson is an “Awesome Lawyer” for 2012.

Problem: This about as substantive as a piece of tissue paper. Richardson may be a great lawyer, no one is denying that. However, a declarative sentence like this is just sloppy. Richardson was named to a list, the list happens to be called “Awesome Lawyers.” Readers can draw their own conclusions and the media gets just the facts that they are looking for.

If you want to get creative, use the quote to sing someone’s praises as this is the only time to interject a non-factual statement.

  • Ex. 1: “We are thrilled to have John join the firm. He is of the utmost caliber and will be a great asset for the firm and our clients.”
  • Ex. 2: “This honor is a validation of Rich’s status as one of the region’s finest attorneys.”

Writing good press releases is not as simple as it would seem. The right words in the right place can make an enormous difference, as can a good message-focused quote versus a stock, throwaway one.

Accuracy and honesty matter when interacting with the media. It is critical to understand the process and work within its rules.

– Michael Bond

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