Len Williams

Freelance Writer

Category: Uncategorized

Five things journalists want from your press release

So, your business has something exciting you want the world to know about? Writing a press release can be a great way of getting free publicity – being mentioned in a national newspaper, television segment or trade publication can spread the word about what you’re doing.

However, with so many companies pumping out press releases every day, very few journalists have the time or inclination to read everything that lands in their inboxes. So, how can you write a press release that journalists will read and run with?

Remember who you’re writing for

Any kind of professional writing requires you to have a laser focus on your reader and what they expect from your content. This is especially true with press releases.

You are writing for reporters – people who themselves write for an audience. Your press releases therefore need to give the journalist exactly what they want: something that will be interesting or relevant to their readers.

Your reporter is looking for something new and unique. He or she wants to cover stories that the publication’s competitors might have missed. They are also trying to impress their editor with the great quality, interesting stories they seem able to gather.

Your reporter also has tight deadlines. Spend time in a newsroom and you’ll see how little patience there is for dilly-dallying. This means your press release needs to get straight to the point – no hack wants to have to spend ten minutes trying to work out what your press release is all about.

So, how can you write a press release that will get your reporter excited?

journalists stressed press release

5 things journalists want from a press release

Here are five things you can do which will make a journalist more likely to open your press release email:

  1. Be relevant to them and their audience

Before you approach any journalists, make sure your press release is going to be relevant to their audience. If they can’t see why your story would be of interest to their readers, your press release will go straight in the spam box.

Example: Say you company sold flowers and plants to brighten up corporate offices. There’s probably not much chance The Economist is going to run with the story – so don’t waste your time. Search for journalists working at publications aimed at office managers, HR departments or the horticulture industry.

  1. An informative subject line

Your email subject line needs to tell the reporter exactly what they’re going to learn by opening up your message. Avoid any attempts at wordplay or wit – that’s their job. Instead, give them facts and interesting information.

Example: Think about our office plant delivery company again. You might be tempted with a subject line like “planting a tree of happiness in offices since 2012”. But, that would be a mistake. The journalist would have no idea what you do or what’s new in the story. So, a more straight laced but informative subject line should be used. Try: “Fresh plants and flowers now delivered to offices in all UK cities”.

  1. Short, sweet and easy to read

There are plenty of guides describing how to actually write a press release, so I won’t repeat them (but if you need help, contact me!). That said, it’s so important to edit down your press release to the essentials. Journalists do not want to trawl through three pages of copy trying to work out what you do.

Example: Take our plant delivery firm again. It might seem sensible to draft up the press release into a Word or Google doc and attach it in your emails. Unfortunately, very few journalists will have the patience to download the document, open it and read it through. Instead, aim to fit three or four hundred words in the body of the email itself.

  1. Quotes

The amount of press releases which forget to include quotes is stunning. Every journalist is trained to gather quotes from their sources. So, make it as easy as possible for them by including quotes in your press release.

Example: Our plant delivery firm could easily get a quote from their CEO which supports the story. Try: “when we started out in Leeds six years ago, we never thought we’d be delivering plants outside of the city. But, through the amazing work of our team we’re now delivering wonderful plants across the UK. It’s a dream come true”.

  1. Pictures

Last but by no means least, include pictures with your press release. Whenever I write feature articles, editors are always demanding ultra-high res photos – if they can fill half a page with a striking photo of something extraordinary, this will make them very happy. Any product company can and should get professional photos taken of their new product. It’s a little trickier for firms selling services or less tangible products such as software, but with a bit of imagination you should be able to produce something.

Provide a link to a Dropbox file where the reporter can view the photos too – don’t clog up their servers with heavy messages.

Example: The obvious option for our flower delivery company would be a brand new photo of their delivery vans, stacked full of vibrant plants!

Need help writing a press release? I can help. Get in touch with me today.

 

 

How to write an ‘about us’ page which makes people excited about your company

Writing an about us page - image of a company's staff

The ‘about us’ section is normally among the most-visited pages on a company’s website. It’s where people will go if they’re trying to figure out what your company does, where you’re based, what you stand for and who the people are behind the name.

If your company’s ‘about us’ clearly answers the visitor’s questions – and even makes them excited about your company – it’s much more likely their next step will be to click through to your ‘contact us’ page. Bingo!

But here’s the problem. So many ‘about us’ pages are dull, drab and unreadable.

They start something like this: “Corp LLC trades in high value market joint ventures…”.

Blah.

Blah.

Blah.

If your company’s ‘about us’ page is tedious or even unreadable, don’t expect people to be excited about what you do.

I’ve written ‘about us’ pages for global corporations and brand new startups, in industries as diverse as tech, accounting, consulting and plenty more. Here are some things I’ve learnt about writing a great ‘about us’ page.

‘About us’ is really ‘about you’

The title ‘about us’ is a bit of a misnomer. In the majority of cases, your copy should begin by talking about who your company helps. Start by describing the problems that your clients (and potential customers) face.

Say you ran a corporate event planning company called CorpEvents. Here’s a dummy version of how you could begin your ‘about us’ page:

“Your corporate event gives you a unique opportunity to connect with your customers. But preparing for a successful event takes weeks out of your busy schedule…”

Talk about what you believe in

Maybe you only started your business to make loadsa money. But in many cases, the business probably came from some sort of belief about how your company can help improve things. Readers will be impressed by and interested in a company that has a raison d’être. Show people what that is.

Take our corporate even planning company again. After telling the reader who they help, the next step is to explain the reason why they do what they do:

“At CorpEvent, we believe events should not be a one-size fits all. And that’s why we make all our events mirror your company’s unique personality…”

Tell your story

Starting a company is a pretty exciting thing, right? Whether your firm is a month old or 50 years going strong, there’s a huge amount of drama and tension in any company story. This should make for compelling stuff – don’t just write a list of key dates.

  • Did you start when your founder noticed a gap in the market?
  • Did you invent something unique?
  • Did your multi-million-pound business idea start from a chat in the pub?

This is all exciting stuff which readers will find fascinating. Don’t let the chance go to waste.

Let’s look again at how the fictional CorpEvent might start telling their story:

Our CEO Sue Jones used to hate attending corporate events when she was head of sales at her former employer. All those drab seminars. All the samey locations. And the food, the terrible, terrible food.

And that’s when Sue hit on an idea…”

Customer quotes or ‘social proof’

There’s plenty of evidence that shows people are more likely to believe ‘social proof’ – think testimonials from happy customers –  than anything you say about yourself.

So, ask your existing customers to share quotes with you, or display the logos of major brands you’ve worked with. It’ll show potential customers you’re credible and legit.

Any extraordinary facts, entertaining trivia or unique points of interest?

Writing an about us page using interesting company details

Donald Trump as a lad

Did your CEO go to school with Donald Trump? Are your employees involved in some worthy CSR activities? Does your company name have a weird story?

Any unique or interesting detail will make people remember you and ensure your company stands out. And that’s ultimately the point in any ‘about us’ page.

Last of all – use imagery and design

Far too many ‘about us’ pages consist of solid walls of text. What a shame!

It’s highly worthwhile including pictures of your team on your ‘about us’ page. Your readers instantly connect with images of other people – much more so than they would with pictures of inanimate objects.

The added value is that when people meet you in person (or if they already did at a conference or networking event), they immediately recognise you, fostering a sense of connection.

Need help writing your about us page?

 

Sometimes, you’re just too close to the subject matter to write your own ‘about us’ page. If you’re struggling, I can help you write an ‘about us’ page which conveys your company’s story in clear, compelling copy that will make visitors to your website want to work with you.

Contact me today about your website content writing needs.

 

Five tips for writing a professional bio that makes you stand out

professional bio for a speaking engagement

A professional bio will give people a feel for who you are and what you do – be that journalists writing up an article about your firm, visitors to your website or an audience at a speaking engagement.

As useful as bios are, most people loathe writing their own. You don’t want to sound like you’re bragging and it’s difficult to decide which career highlights you should include.

As a consequence, far too many bios end up as either:

a. Chronological lists of professional achievements

or

b. Edited versions of a CV

Either way, they end up reading as a load of business jargon no one understands and job titles/qualifications no one will care about.

Let’s look at five things that should go into a professional bio and some tips for writing yours.

1. What makes a memorable professional bio?

A good professional bio should mix fact with storytelling.

What I mean is that you need to provide people with some key information to understand the major events of your professional career, but also combine this with some more ‘human’ detail.

Your key facts include:

  • Who you are – literally, your name (repeat this a few times for SEO purposes)
  • What you do – your job title
  • When you joined or founded your company
  • Where you live, work and where you studied

Around these details, you’ll need to plot some of the more ‘human’ aspects of your story, things like:

  • Your major successes
  • Your approach to whatever your profession is
  • ‘Personal’ factors – such as important hobbies or family

2. How to write a professional bio

Here’s my process for writing the professional bios of my clients:

a. Understand the audience

While this is your bio, you should ultimately focus on who is going to read it. What do they want to find out about you? What context are they going to be reading the bio in? What ‘level’ does this need to be pitched at?

By working out who your audience is, you can decide on your style, tone of voice and the details it’ll be appropriate to include

b. Tell your story out loud to someone else

At this point, it’s really helpful to sit down and talk through your academic and professional experience with a colleague or someone outside your company. By talking through your experiences with someone else, they can ask for detail about topics you might think are unimportant, or ask you to clarify complex subjects. We can all get so used to the jargon of our trade that we forget that not everyone understands the terms.

By talking things through with someone else, you can reflect on your career, and they’ll ask questions which will help draw out useful details you might not have considered if writing the bio on your own.

3. Structure this into a narrative

Your professional bio isn’t meant to be a list of achievements. As pretentious as it might sound, you’re trying to tell a very short story which will inform and interest readers. Below is an example of how you’d start ‘narrating’ your bio using the most common narrative arc:

  • You need to set the scene and sow the seeds of a ‘problem’ of some sort

“Claire Jones is a leading accountant who knows businesses want to save £millions…”

  • You need to evolve the characters and the story

“Claire Jones believes the best way of doing this is to restructure her clients’ businesses using her unique method…”

  • Finally, the narrative needs to conclude in some way

“Claire Jones is available to help even more companies save on their tax bill”

You might find this professional bio template a useful starter.

3. How long should your professional profile bio be?

As a rule of thumb, you want one ‘main’ professional bio which can be sent out in press releases or be put on your profile in event and conference brochures. Given the space involved- and people’s tendency to skim read – I wouldn’t recommend more than 300 words.

Besides that, you might also need to distil this down to a range of shorter bios – perhaps one for your LinkedIn profile, and another briefer one for your Twitter handle.

4. Should you include detail about kids, hobbies and pets in your professional bio?

There’s a fine line between making yourself seem ‘human’ in your bio, and sharing irrelevant details which will make readers take you less seriously.

In my perspective it’s useful to include at least one or two details about your non-work life in your professional bio – especially on your company website and when speaking at events.

Why? Basically, it can help ‘oil’ social interactions with people after your speaking slot or when they meet you for business:

“Great talk! Oh and I see you do triathlons – me too!”.

5. Should my professional bio be written in the first person or third person?

Most professional bios are written in the third person.

The main reason for this is that using the third person can lend a certain authority to you – if it sounds like someone else has written up your bio, you must be a big deal! Second, you avoid the risk of sounding like you’re ‘blowing your own horn’.

That said, for some firms it might be much more appropriate to write in the first person. For instance, if you’re an independent business consultant, a doctor running your own practice or a freelance life coach, it will probably be more appropriate to take the ‘I’ form.

Need help writing your professional bio?

Struggling with your professional bio? I work with business leaders, independent consultants and senior executives to write professional bios which tell their stories and make them stand out from the crowd.

Contact me today to talk about how we can make your professional bio stand out together.

 

 

And I’m in business: your London freelance writer

“Freelance writing is the most wonderful way of earning a living. Nothing, except perhaps inherited wealth, provides greater personal freedom”.

– Andrew Crofts, The Freelance Writer’s Handbook

After nine months of saving, working evenings for clients after my main job had finished, and moonlighting as a sub editor at a newspaper, I’m delighted to announce I am now a full time freelance writer!

Working as a freelance writer has been one of my long term ambitions and I’m very excited to finally be doing it full time. I’m looking forward to meeting the clients I’ll work with in future, the fascinating articles, blogs and books I’ll write and the extraordinary people I’ll meet and places I’ll go.

With over three years as the head writer at a digital marketing agency in London, where I got to write copy for some of the world’s leading companies and led a team of three writers, I’ve gained a huge amount of relevant experience which should be hugely valuable to my clients.

Read on to find out a little more about my freelance writing business.

What content will I be producing?

I can provide a wide range of freelance content writing services, including:

  • News and feature articles for magazines and newspapers (editors: get in touch if you have an article to commission!)
  • Corporate blogs (either internal or public)
  • Whitepapers and eBooks
  • Web copy
  • Email campaigns and newsletters
  • Articles for third-party publications
  • Press releases
  • Surveys and reports
  • Ghostwritten books and articles

Which markets will I be aiming at?

The greatest appeal of freelance writing for me is the possibility to learn and write about an enormous range of people, places, companies, products and activities. I am always open to writing about new subjects – I believe the skill of a freelance content writer is to be able to master any topic and produce articles which the target audience will understand.

That said, I do have particular experience as a:

  • Freelance features writer
  • Freelance B2B technology writer
  • Freelance accountancy writer
  • Freelance insurance blogs writer
  • Freelance SEO writer

Visit my portfolio for some samples.

Work with me as your London freelance writer

I’m open for booking and would love to add you to my growing clients list. If you have a story you would like written for your publication, a blog for your website or any kind of marketing content for your company or your clients, get in touch with me today.

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