The Ogilvy approach to writing a media release

Posted: July 1, 2010 in communicate, learn, read
Tags: , ,

Phew! I’ve just completed a timed media release written test, one component to a job screening process. Thankfully that is now over!

Before my assessment I did a last-minute google search for inspiration on media release writing tips from innovative global agencies like Ogilvy.

I came across PR Leap Blog that summarises key points to media release writing from David Ogilvy’s book Ogilvy on Advertising. Geared as an advertising resource for copywriters on how to transform copy into a media release, Ogilvy’s tips are equally valuable to Marketing and Communications people who can momentarily forget a media release must have newsworthy content to attract media interest.

Wanted: Renaissance In Print Advertising.

In Chapter 7, “Wanted: a renaissance in print advertising,” Ogilvy called for change in advertising based on the findings from studies commissioned by his agency, results of direct response tests, and his own observations. He wanted copywriters to acquire the know-how for developing “advertising that sells.” Although his book was written in 1983, many of his copywriting principles still hold today.

How does this apply to press release writing? Ogilvy discovered that advertisements that include news produce better results. Therefore, a press release should never look and sound like an advertisement.

Five Ogilvy copywriting principles applied to press release writing:

“On the average, five times as many people read the headlines as read the body copy.” He added: “unless your headline sells your product, you have wasted 90 percent of your money.”
Press Release Optimization Tip 1: Include your brand name in the headline of your press release. Ogilvy added: “If you don’t, 80 percent of readers (who don’t read your body copy) will never know what product your advertising.”

“Headlines which contain news are sure-fire. On average, ads with news are recalled by 22 percent more people than ads without news.”
Press Release Optimization Tip 2: State your news loud and clear in your headline. Write your headline from a news perspective.

“Specifics work better than generalities.”
Press Release Optimization Tip 3: The headline of your news release should make it findable on the search engines and grab the reader’s attention. Be concrete. Avoid double-meanings, puns, and other obscurities.” Copy should be written in the language people use in the everyday conversations,” Ogilvy said. Use the keywords that match your prospective customers’ search queries. Using the right vocabulary will bring you closer to your target audience.

“All my experiences says that for a great many products, long copy sells more than short.”
Press Release Optimization Tip 4: A press release that is too short (150 words or less) tends to read like advertisements. This will stop your news releases from getting included in News Search Engines. However, your release should be no more than 600 words or a maximum of two printed pages. Ogilvy added: “But I must warn you that if you want your long copy to be read, you had better write it well.” I recommend that a press release have at least 250 words.

“It is no bad thing to learn the craft of advertising by copying your elders and better.”
Press Release Optimization Tip 5: Look at your competitors for inspiration and style, primarily the biggest player in your market. They have big budgets and hire the best press release writers. Learn from them and apply it your business.

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