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Press Release Writing Tips Part II

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Reading on the beachThree reasons to limit a release to around 400 words

By Geri L. Dreiling, Esq.

A few weeks ago I highlighted some of the basic elements lawyers should include in a press release in “Legal Press Release Writing Tips.” Those elements are:

  • Headline and subhead
  • Nut graph
  • Details that allow a reporter to verify the information contained in the release
  • Description of the firm

One of the items not on the list but that I briefly mentioned was the recommendation to keep the release to about 400 words. A few of my readers e-mailed and asked why. In this blog entry, I’ll cover three reasons behind my 400-word suggestion.

1. Cost

Many of my clients’ press releases are circulated by way of a wire service that charges a flat fee for the first 400 words. For each additional 100 words, the cost increases by $75.

2. Concrete Target

A specific word count provides a better benchmark than the nebulous “keep it short.” For lawyers, accustomed to writing lengthy briefs and pleadings, “short” may translate into a three-page press release rather than the one-page, 400-word release.

But tight writing can be very difficult. Don’t underestimate the time it takes to draft a carefully crafted release. In a wry comment about the unique challenges of concise writing, Mark Twain famously noted, “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.”

3. Readers’ Time

It would be nice if people took stacks of my press releases to the pool with them to enjoy as leisure reading — but I don’t think that’s going to happen.

Legal press releases are business communications. The readers include journalists, potential clients and other lawyers who are in a hurry and need to absorb the main messages quickly.

Like all rules, the 400-word recommendation can be broken, but this should be done only sparingly — the exception rather than the rule.

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