You’ve only got six seconds, so cut the crap


“In a world of crap press releases yours shone above every time. In a world of challenging communications, your comms excelled every time.” The best feedback we’ve ever received. It also made us smile, which is always a good thing when you’re scrolling through work emails. After a decade spent honing our ability to not write crap press releases, we have decided we could share a few tips.

Who cares anyway?

Nobody. Start by assuming that no one really cares what you have to say. You’re just another email in a very long list that no one has time to read. Assume this as your start point and now make it your job to make people care about your news. And, by the way, you have a maximum of six seconds to achieve this.

You have six seconds to let your reader know what happened and why they should care about it. We’re not even talking about the body of your email, or your actual press releases, we’re talking about the subject line. If there’s nothing compelling in those half a dozen words, your reader will scroll right on by and there goes your moment.

Six seconds is approximately the time it takes to read the subject line of an email, decide it’s worth a click, and then read the first two sentences of your press release. So, if you haven’t covered the crucial facts by then, your story is now officially toast.

Who, what, where, when?

Get the facts out first, the fluffy stuff can come later… if your reader gets that far. So, make your very first paragraph short and sweet. What happened, to whom, where did it happen, and when. Hopefully, you also have a why to add here – i.e. why this story might be of interest to your reader. Is it a world-first/ a new record/ the youngest person ever? Find your unique story angle and give it clear emphasis.

It’s all about the KISS

Remember, it’s a press release, not a novel. You’re not looking to build suspense and intrigue, or to keep your audience holding on until the last sentence before they find out what happened. You don’t need long, intricate sentences. Stick to the facts and keep sentence structure concise and on point. As we all know, any good story centres on the KISS: Keep it simple, stupid.

Know your audience

Who are you talking to anyway? Good communication relies on you understanding your audience. Who are they, what do they need to know, or what do you need them to understand? Think hard about how you use jargon; if your audience doesn’t understand it they’ll soon lose interest but dumb it down too much and the tone becomes condescending.

Get the basics right

Spelling, grammar, names of people and places. If you don’t get the basics right anything else is a waste of keystrokes. Check your facts before you send because once it’s gone, it’s gone, and mistakes take longer than six seconds to fix.