Flip the pyramid on its head: write like a pro

Have you struggled writing press releases and news stories for your business website? How the heck do you start these things anyway?

Did you know there IS an easy (and correct) method to writing these important marketing pieces? It’s called the inverted pyramid style. And every journalist learned this style and uses it daily.

Why write in the inverted pyramid style?

The inverted pyramid is the definitive journalistic style for newspaper stories. It’s used because it organizes your information from most important to least important. Organizing information this way accomplishes two goals:

  1. It gives the newspaper (or other publication) the ability to fit a story into any hole on a page by simply cutting off information at the end when space runs out. The story loses nothing because only the most important information remains.
  2. Readers have short attention spans these days. Giving them the most crucial information first ensures they get the gist of the story before moving on.

This style holds a readers attention by offering the most valuable information right at the beginning. No holding back.

When should you use it?

This style should always be used when writing a press release that is sent to media outlets. You dramatically increase your chances of getting it published by using inverted pyramid style. You’ll be way ahead of the other hundreds of hopeful press releases languishing in some editor’s inbox.

You should also use it for news articles you write and put on your website’s news page. Those articles will look more professional and carry more credibility, even if they’ve never seen a real newspaper page. They should read like a journalist wrote them.

How it works—the formula

As you may have guessed, this style of writing involves a formula. It’s a simple one. No reason to sweat over it.

Headline

Some journalists would tell you the formula starts with the lead paragraph. I say it starts with a stellar headline. Your headline must get the reader’s attention and make them want to read the first paragraph. So, use active language and sharp adjectives. Give them a fact or two.

If you’re not sure how to write a great headline, click here to learn the secrets. It’s a critical part of drawing readers to your story, so don’t slack off on this.

Lead paragraph

The first paragraph, or lead, sets the tone for the story. It answers the “who, what, when and where” of the story. You can be creative in how you provide the information, but make sure those four things land in the lead. If you can’t get all four into the lead, put any remaining pieces into the second paragraph.

Since your story or press release will likely be about your business and not a hard-hitting news story, feel free to use action verbs and creative adjectives. Don’t let it lull readers to sleep.

And, don’t let it get too long. Two to three sentences is the maximum length for a lead paragraph. Limiting the lead to one sentence is even better. Be concise but creative.

Body

As you write the body of your press release or news article, continue to add information in order of its importance. You’ll be answering the “how and why” questions at this point, so more detail will be required.

Again, use colorful language and power words to make your story worth reading. Be sure to add quotes into the mix as well. They have their own way of livening up copy.

A couple tips to keep in mind:

  • Don’t let paragraphs get too long. Try to keep them no more than three to four sentences, unless they’re very short sentences.
  • Use only quotes that say something important or add information. Don’t quote someone just to quote them. Make it worth reading.
  • For businesses, it’s easy to slip back into using jargon and corporate speak in your news stories. Keep your audience in mind. Speak their language, not yours.

Wrap it up

Don’t worry about having a summary ending on your press release. Often the end will get cut off due to space constraints. I find it easiest to end with a quote that isn’t critical to the story. If it goes away, no biggie. The story won’t suffer if you skip the summary all together.

Still not up for it?

If you’re still struggling to get that pyramid turned upside down, there’s help. One of my specialties is writing press releases. Shoot me an email. I’d be happy to jump in and take care of it for you. No need to waste any more of your precious time. It’s what I do.

 

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