Rebecca Bredholt leads the Vocus Marketing Consultants, helping Vocus customers achieve marketing success.
Similar to cooking shows where the host has all the ingredients prepared in separate bowls, the oven is preheated and all that’s left to do is mix it all together and throw it into a pan, a press release can be written in a matter of hours by a public relations professional who has done all their homework.
However, if a novice walks into that same kitchen, totally unprepared, odds are they would not be able to whip that meal together in 30 minutes and have it come out just as tasty. It takes years of practice and moments of preparation to get it right.
When asking how long it takes to write a press release, the answer will depend on whom you ask and for what distribution purpose you have in mind. Someone with little to no professional writing experience will probably need a couple of days to think about how to position their news. Then they’ll need about four or five hours to write a first draft. Editing and refining the piece might take another hour or two.
There’s also the matter of guidelines to consider. A press release written as a Word document and emailed to reporters directly needs to adhere to AP Style or the Chicago Manual of Style writing guidelines. A Vocus online press release must pass Editorial Guidelines, which require a mandatory element of timeliness for publishing the release. This means something new has happened within the last couple of months at a business or credible news source.
Instead of asking how long it takes to write a press release, let’s look at how long it takes to write an awful release versus an awesome press release that both reporters and consumers will love and share.
1. Awful = no verbs, no source, no element of news that will pass Vocus guidelines, will not help readers and will probably be pushed deep into the bottomless recesses of the Internet – two minutes
2. Adequate = has a verb, a source, and a timely news element that will pass guidelines – 15 minutes
3. Awesome = will grab reporters’ attention and pass guidelines, and contains keywords so the right audience finds it, loves it and shares it (thus showing signs to Google that it should show up higher in search results for more people) –1 hour or more
Body Copy: (Assuming research completed)
1. Awful = no news element, no clear reason why this release is being written now, no evidence a source, no structure, no facts or figures, no attribution, grammar errors and typos (or worse, inaccuracies) – 30 minutes
2. Adequate = contains a news element, has attribution, has facts, has structure, no typos or grammar errors, and is of a sufficient length and clarity – two to six hours
3. Awesome = niche-specific news element so the target audience knows this applies to them, creates a sense of urgency or inspiration, stacks the most relevant information at the top and expands downward, avoids clichés, provides context and tells a great story – eight hours or more
In summary, it takes at least nine hours to write an awesome press release, not including time spent on research, and 32 minutes to write a potentially awful press release.
A discussion on MarketingProfs.com reveals a common feeling among public relations professionals – actually sitting down and hammering out a rather templated news announcement should take very little time. The determining factor rests with the time spent researching a newsworthy release.
As search engines (and even friends and coworkers) gravitate toward helpful information and away from time-wasting articles, press releases falling into the “awful” category will see their rankings fall, and possibly even punished, while the “awesome” press releases will receive even more notoriety, and possibly even a longer shelf life.
Image: wwarby (Creative Commons)