Press releases are a great way of communicating your latest news or updates with members of the news media, who will then relate this information to their wider audience if they think it will be of interest. It can sometimes go by the name of either a ‘press release’, ‘media release’, ‘news release’, ‘press statement’ or ‘video release’. It is typically a written document, which needs to have some level of newsworthiness. It is usually between one or two pages in length.
Although lots of people require a press release, not everyone recognises or understands what it takes to write an effective one. So if you’re wondering how to write a press release, read on…
Make it newsworthy
For The Guardian, one of the most important aspects is that your release actually contains news. They suggest asking yourself questions such as what is ‘new’ about your story, whether there is anything unexpected or unusual about what you have to say, whether it would be of interest to anyone else outside of your business, and whether anyone will actually care about the news.
Although the latter may seem harsh, they suggest this is one of the most important questions as you need your story to resonate with people. Otherwise, it will simply flop. In essence, you need to try and find a new angle to your story, product or company, or link it to a current trend.
The headline matters
When considering what might be of interest in your headline or structure, imagine whether it would capture your reader’s attention while scrolling through Facebook or Twitter. HubSpot suggests your headline should be ‘irresistible’.
At Forbes, they note that the headline is the most important feature given the vast quantity of e-mails that reporters will receive. They suggest getting to your point quickly, noting what the story is, why they should care and why now. With an effective headline, it will make it easier to organise your thoughts.
The subject line of your email should feel personal, without being all capitals or either super formal/super casual. Often it helps to show you are specifically trying to contact the journalist of that specific publication, rather than just sending out generic news blasts.
Write in the third person
When writing a press release, it needs to sound impartial and as though someone else is talking about your company, rather than like a personal message or e-mail from your business. It should refer to your business name when talking about your company, rather than using words such as ‘we’ and ‘our’. It should almost feel as though a stranger or journalist is reporting your news – in the same tone you would expect to read it when reported on.
If you want to add a personal face to your company, it’s recommended you include a quote from either a key figure in the organisation or from the company spokesperson. Quotes add depth to a story which is why they are usually favoured by journalists and can help get your release featured.
Consider the structure
HubSpot have a very clear structure and layout for how an effective press release should be written. It is an official announcement so should be laid out in a formal structure. They suggest that the heading should include action verbs, while the first paragraph should specifically answer four key questions – who, what, where and why. Along with these, Marketing Donut suggests adding the questions of ‘when’ and ‘how’ to this list as well, to include the timing and significance of when it came about.
For the structure, HubSpot also reiterate the use of a quote and highlight the value of using easy to grasp language. They also point out that audiences are not the same as they were 10 or so years ago – therefore, you’re no longer feeding the traditional news cycle. Your press release needs to appeal to an attention-starved, busy audience used to getting their news in soundbite nuggets from social media.
Don’t shy away from data
It is important that your press release is interesting, and this comes through being concise and to the point. However, it is also important for your news release to contain all the necessary information for a journalist to write a story without needing to contact you for further details (although many may want to).
It can be very beneficial to add key data, which the Huffington Post also notes, as this may help the journalist find the hook needed to want to produce a write-up based on the press release. It may help them identify trends with other similar stories to then group it all together. Adding hard numbers will help to verify everything you’re saying, improve its credibility and establish a colourful narrative. Make sure you have evidence for everything you’re saying in case you need to verify it and try to keep it compelling.
Include your contact details
In the event that the journalist writing about your press release does want to contact you for further information or an interview, it can be very helpful for them if the contact information is added at the end for the person in question.
Whether your own company or another’s, this should include an e-mail address, phone number and full name – plus the person’s job title. Typically it will be someone in the marketing or press team, or the CEO or communications manager in smaller companies.
Add context, background and flavour
Through putting your story into the wider context, it helps to show your audience why it matters and what is going on within your industry that they may not already be aware of. This includes quotes from other sources or data that previous research may have found. It may include linking to relevant news reports or even quoting an article that the journalist has previously written. It helps to show that you understand exactly why it matters.
Short, sweet and to the point
With any news release, it is important that you don’t waffle. It can be tempting to add lots of descriptive and flowery language and repeat the same point in various ways. However, that’s not your job to do this. It’s for the journalist to add their own spin on the news. All you need to do is report the facts in the clearest, most concise and comprehensive way possible.
Try to keep what you’re writing to a few paragraphs, and no longer than two pages. Adding pictures, sub-headings and sending appropriate images (in a variety of resolutions) through email attachment can greatly improve the chances of getting your press release published.
The first paragraph is most important, so get all your key information in there. The second paragraph should then expand on this, with a third paragraph for the quote, and a fourth paragraph for final information and any insight into what else is coming up next.
The quotes included should be interesting and great sound-bites that a journalist may actually want to use. When it comes to how to write press release, Marketing Donut suggest keeping your sentences to 25 words in length to ensure they have punch, without any lengthy explanations.
And if you want to include any extra information about your company or about opportunities for a photo shoot, for example, include these in a ‘Notes to Editor’ section at the end.