Compared with the amount of time someone spends looking at an advert, a well-written article or press release should, firstly, aim to engage the reader long enough for you to share a piece of news or pass on helpful advice, and, if done well, should then hold their attention while you tell them more about you, your organisation and what you do.
So, to begin with, you need to capture your reader’s attention in the first few lines. What is the main point you want to get across? It could be a new business or contract win, an award, office move or charity event – the important thing at this stage is to make people want to read more, so in the first paragraph tease them – tell them enough but not everything.
After that, go on to explain further. The next couple of paragraphs should give the full details of your news. Work through the who, what, when, where, why and how. It might be that not all of those questions are relevant and they don’t have to be dealt with in that order, but go through them one by one and put in as much detail as you can.
Most people will be interested in the news – a new company or a charitable venture – but once they’ve got the gist, they may well turn the page or click away. If they carry on reading, then they’re probably already considering whether your organisation is of any interest to them, so now is the time to start filling in the gaps. Use the next two or three paragraphs to tell the readers about your products, your services, your ethos and your people.
Then introduce them to a ‘name’ by adding a couple paragraphs quoting someone – the managing director, owner, organiser of the event. This should be based around person’s views on what the news you’ve covered earlier in the article means to them and the organisation, and maybe reiterate some of the detail about what the organisation is all about. This not only gives the article a personal touch, it also gives readers a point of reference, someone to call if they’re interested in finding out more.
At the end, include contact details including a phone number, email address and website to make it as easy as possible to make contact. If you don’t, some people will go to the trouble of finding out how to get in touch – plenty more won’t.
Six top tips
- Find some good examples of articles you’ve read and responded positively to and use them as a guide.
- If you’ve been given a word count, try to stick to it as closely as possible. If not, aim for no more than 400-500 words and use your contact details to signpost readers to how they can find out more if they want to.
- Check the spelling and grammar (one exclamation mark per article, but only if you absolutely have to!) Ideally, get someone else to read through it before you send it out or publish it.
- Apart from any quotes you include, write in the third person singular, as if someone from outside the organisation is writing it – i.e. Smith & Jones Ltd is one of the leading widget makers or Smith & Jones Ltd makes the best widgets, rather than We are one of the leading widget makers or Our widgets are the best.
- Don’t start with a question. Have you ever thought about buying a widget? simply invites the response No, I haven’t, so I’m going to stop reading.
- The easiest one – get a professional to do it. All Things Management can help, whether for print or digital, call 01604 267677 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.