Without the fine-tuned language to communicate, even the most important and interesting content of a press release will become lost. It won’t be saved by its catchy title, perfect layout, or one-of-a-kind photo. So how do you write an effective (and punchy, by the way) press release?
The voice of Queen Elizabeth, Professor McGonagall, the archetypal aged Polish high school teacher or a strict grandmother - the famous "watch your language" ("express yourself properly!") should resonate in the copywriter’s head every time they sit at a computer keyboard (or a piece of paper or typewriter - we don’t exclude anyone).
Let formal language stay in the offices
And although it sounds like a cliché, you often see copy that is a) too formal, b) not formal enough, or c) boring. A short note, intended to present X of the most important principles of healthy eating, really doesn’t have to include only words such as 'eating' and 'food'. Unless it’s written with a 19th-century guidebook in mind or intended to put the reader to sleep.
In most cases, the "too formal" problem is solved by sticking to the principle of "write as if you were speaking, only more neatly and correctly". To put it simply: let's leave formal language to the authorities and be correct but not hypercorrect. The audience will appreciate a play on words, little jokes, comments and tongue-in-cheek humour more than dry phrases that sound like a police report.
Is it getting serious? Joking aside
At least for copy concerning lifestyle themes, meant very generally. Standard releases, e.g. about opening a new company branch, expanding the product range, or new business projects should be, first and foremost, clear and concise. Otherwise you’ fall into the trap of "not formal enough".
Cracking jokes or making references to pop culture, as well as including quotations and comments, won’t necessarily work either in the case of more formal specialist information aimed at building the client’s professional image and being published in media outlets dedicated to business, legal issues, medicine, etc. Their importance and credibility are built on seriousness. But again: not bore, only refraining from unnecessary ornaments and remembering to use specialist vocabulary!
How do you balance it? The first rule is - think about who will read this text. Knowing your target group, you will already have taken a step towards developing a good press release. And don't forget what the purpose of your work is - you want to build a partner-like image in the eyes of professionals or perhaps show that a product is great for amateurs – either situation is governed by its own rules.
When you think through the "why" and "for whom" issues, you will quickly decide on things such as whether it’s a good idea to use professional vocabulary or present the product/project in a way that’s understandable for everyone, even for people outside of the industry concerned. Besides, it’s always worth letting common sense speak, as it often instinctively tells you where the line between too formal/not formal enough should go. Your own experience, knowledge of the client, and the specificity of media relations should have a voice, too, because the key to success is simple: the rub is that the writing style should be diplomatic, positive, and not offensive to anyone.
What do you gain by "watching our language"? Credibility. Attention. Appeal. Uniqueness. In a word: exactly what – along with solid and interesting content – makes up an effective press release.