How to write a viral press release on academic research

Its trendy at the moment to say the ‘press release is dead’. And while I would agree that the media industry has gone through a dramatic shift in recent years, that doesn’t necessarily mean the demise of the press release.

The problem is there’s a lot of wordy press releases sent to the wrong people which ultimately end up in the deleted folder of journalist’s emails. I think it’s fair to say that press releases have a PR problem.  However, if it’s done right, the trusty press release is still a quick and effective way to target relevant journalists with just the information you want.

Okay, so now that I ended the debate on why the press release is alive and well. I’m now going to explain how to write a release on academic research which meets the demands of our ever-changing communications landscape and ultimately, gets results. Or to put it another way – how to write a viral press release.

Keep it short

I think the most important thing to remember about press releases is they have to be short. An ideal press release is about 250- 400 words. That’s just three or four short paragraphs and a couple of quotes. If yours is longer than that, you’ve probably got unnecessary waffle that doesn’t add anything to the release. I know with academic research there are lot of elements which the academic might want to include, however a press release needs to be concise and clear in order to attract the attention of the journalist. If the release is done right, the journalist will probably get in contact and ask for the full academic paper anyway. 

Avoid jargon, explain technical and academic terms and say what acronyms stand for. Academic language does not, or should not, mean complex. When adapting academic research for a press release, the idea isn’t to make it simplistic but to make it accessible to everyone. Quotes from the academic should be used to provide insight and opinion and to support the rest of the press release. However, they definitely shouldn’t be full of jargon or technical language which no one can understand.

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