Marketing Material vs. Press Releases

This past Friday one of my consistent clients came to me with a new copywriting project.  She wanted me to write a press release with a hard sell of the benefits of her particular service. She made a common mistake: she assumed that a press release would be written and used the same way as marketing material.  This is simply not the case, and yet plenty of people confuse press releases with marketing material.  My copywriter friends tell me they run into the same problem with their clients. So let me take a moment to explain the difference.

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Marketing material is a huge category that encompasses any print or electronic media that sells your product or service, including brochures, websites, radio and TV ads, banners, advertisements, flyers, postcards, sell sheets, product descriptions, direct sales letters and so on.  As a copywriter, when I create your marketing material, I’m focusing on the features and benefits of your product.  The client and I agree on a hard sell or a soft sell and make sure that all the unique selling positions are clearly stated using engaging copy that makes them want to buy.  The goal of any marketing material is to show the consumer that they need this product or service and they need it now.

But press releases are a whole different beast.  Also referred to as “news” releases, they are just that: announcements of news.  These materials do not push the features and benefits of a product or service, though they may certainly explain what the service is or what the product does.  But there should be no “sell” to a press release.  Editors are looking for a news story, so copywriters need to find a news angle for their clients.  You might be launching a new business.  You might have a new product line or hired a new Director Of Marketing.  Maybe you’ve signed on a celebrity spokesperson or have a special limited offer available.  Perhaps you’re responding to a current event with your service (a pizza place brings free pizza to striking union workers).  The point is, a press release must be newsworthy or, quite frankly, an editor will throw it in the “round file” (also known as the wastebasket).

So when you hire a copywriter to write your press release, remember that the goal is to create news about your product or service that peaks the readers curiosity.  Then you can hit them with the hard sell when they visit your website or store.