If you need to know how to write a press release (or what it is), look no further! A press release is an article that a company sends out to the press at large. This article contains important information or facts about the company – typically recently evolving facts.
One thing to remember about how to write a press release is that it is not a feature article or a sales pitch. It is a formal announcement regarding something significant that has happened to you or your company. It can be a new product release, news about an expansion, new services, or any type of important public announcement regarding the company.
But before we start down the long and winding road of how to write a press release, it is important to remember to whom you are writing it – namely, the press.
Now “the press” might be defined as a media blast of all outlets or a select number of news sources. The point is, you are writing a release of information that is intended to get into the hands of those in the news media – with the assumption that the information would then get out to the public.
Press releases are free publicity. They are one of the few marketing tools that don’t carry a price tag (other than the time and sweat spent writing it). If you are able to get the press release into the hands of enough journalists who then pass it on to their readers, then you’ve just accomplished a huge advertising coup with little or no spending – and that is a beautiful thing.
Think about this. If your press release is picked up by a credible publication, be it a newspaper, magazine, or internet source, then they are adding their credibility to the credibility of your company to support your product! This has a much greater impact on the consumer than most advertising.
Press releases are essential to any public relations campaign. If the press release is picked up, it could lead to a full-length feature article in that publication – and wouldn’t that be nice?
As a bonus, the press release may even increase your SEO ranking, yet another lovely benefit.
The Ups and Downs
The overall goal here is to draw attention to your company and have your product in the minds of the readers. This way, the reader is more likely to order your product or look for more information about your company. The press release should drive prospective clients to your doorstep.
However, there is a downside. A badly written press release can have multiple negative effects. It can make you and your company look like you have no idea what you’re doing. It could also lead to the news media snubbing any future press releases without as much as a glance. This is why it is vitally important to learn how to write a press release in the most effective way possible.
How to Write a Press Release
There are four main parts to any press release. Let’s take a look!
1. The Headline
The first and most important sentence in your entire press release is the headline! Think about it like you are writing something for a traditional newspaper (yes, they still have those). It was all about the headlines. Even if you are scanning through your news feed on your computer, it’s the headlines of the articles that first grab you. If you can’t grab a journalist and their audience with your headline, then you are toast before you even start making breakfast.
The headline is just one sentence that announces the story that follows. It should be quick, engaging, and accurate. Grab their attention! Also, avoid cliche wording that the news media, and everyone else, has heard a thousand times.
Here are a couple of examples of good headlines:
- “One Legged Triathlete Wins Again and Featured in Runner’s Daily”
Informative and intriguing.
“Why You Should Never Eat Another Vegetable”
Ooh, controversial information! Always a crowd pleaser.
Now here are two that need work:
- “New Website Leaves Competition in the Dust”
Oh yay. A new website (yawn). It also uses a tired cliche.
- “McFundthem Announces New Features for its In-house Software”
Who cares? Other than the home office of course.
You will want to use the headline for the subject line of the email you send to the news media. A couple of points here: don’t use all caps and don’t start the subject line with “Story Idea,” as it’s redundant.
2. The First Paragraph
The first paragraph should get straight to the point and summarize your subject completely. The entire body of the press release should do nothing but support what you have already written in the first paragraph.
The main things you want to keep in mind while writing your first paragraph are:
- What is your story?
- Why should anyone care about your story?
- Why should people care about your story right now?
It is a commonly accepted fact that a news reporter will open an article based on the headline, then read the first paragraph. From there, the reporter will just scan the rest of the press release if, and only if, the first paragraph grabbed their attention. Otherwise, into the trash it goes. That is what makes the first paragraph a close second in importance to the headline.
3. The Body of Your Press Release
The body is a very important part to understand. Not as important as the headline and first paragraph, but still very important.
Remember your goal.
When you are creating the press release as a whole, remember, it is intended to be picked up by news agencies. Therefore, write it like a news article. If it’s good enough, the journalist may put it in their news piece with minimal editing.
Remember who the journalist’s audience is – and write to that audience. A really experienced press release writer may write two or three different variations of a press release, each version aimed at specific publication’s audience. For tips on how to gear your writing to your target audience, our article Know Your Audience will help.
Do not use highly technical terms and business lingo. Oh, how reporters hate the business lingo that only those inside the industry are familiar with! Also, avoid using tired old advertising bylines like “Revolutionary New” and terms we’ve all heard a million times before. Give them something fresh – and for goodness’ sake don’t make it sound like a sales pitch.
Use quotes as often as possible. Quotes give the piece a human element and help draw the reader in. It gives the piece a more personal feel so your readers relate to it more.
Quotes from CEOs and those close to whatever event you are reporting on are the best – but get quotes that give a personal touch to the subject, or something really insightful. You don’t want the quote to just be a regurgitation of business lingo.
However, you have to be careful using quotes.
Suppose your CEO is a moron (unlikely, but lets go there just for funsies). You don’t want him or her to look bad, and you certainly don’t want the company to look bad! So get several quotes until you have one or two that actually make them look like they know what they’re doing. Ridiculous quotes will either get your press release kicked or worse, published for the world to confirm that your CEO is indeed, a moron!
Numbers and statistics are great but they need to support the point of your article. One of the most effective uses for numbers and statistics is to use them to bring a problem to light, and then present your product as the solution.
Grammar is vitally important in understanding how to write a press release. One mistake might cause the journalists to kick the entire article. Remember, these guys are professionals and grammar is their tool of the trade. Proofread your press release repeatedly, and with a fine-toothed comb. Then have others in your office read it to check for any spelling or grammar mistakes you may have missed.
And a final word on the body, keep it to one page. This will cause you to concentrate on distilling the facts down to the core of what you want to say without a lot of filler. That’s what you want in a press release, concise and straight to the point. Some journalists may accept two pages but it is rare.
4. Contact Information
You should put your contact information at the bottom of a press release. Provide links to websites, phone numbers, and any other information necessary for the journalist to contact you. Also, provide links to other sources of information that support your story. If you do the reporter’s job for them and make it easy to find additional information, they are more likely to pick up your story.
So, are you ready to go now that you know how to write a press release? Awesome! You will want to check out our upcoming blog post with examples of press releases, as well as our Professional Writing lessons.
Good luck and happy writing!