5 Quick Tips for Writing a Press Release

Ryan O'BlenessRyan O'Bleness Birmingham, Mich. Posts: 990administrator Site Admin
edited July 2016 in Public Relations
Hi, all.

Many people will tell you that the press release is a dying breed in your PR efforts. I completely disagree. I think the basic function of a press release -- to tell a story and gather publicity for a product, event, new hire or other major happening -- will always be important in terms of outreach. If it lands on the right medium, it will gain all kinds of exposure for not only the specific happening, but also your company as a whole.

Here are five basic tips to remember when writing a press release:

1. Use AP style in your writing:
Almost all journalists write exclusively in AP style. Whether it's for a newspaper, online publication, magazine, etc. You need to "speak their language," so to speak, if you want to relate to them and get coverage.

2. Write in inverted pyramid style:
Similarly, another common trait in journalistic writing is to use inverted pyramid style writing. Press releases should be formatted in the same manner. This means you put your most pertinent information first, also known as your lead, then the second most important aspect, then the third, etc. Keep in mind, your lead is your hook. If you don't catch the media member's attention with it, you can kiss your coverage hopes farewell.

3. Try to keep your press release to one page
Journalists are busy people. They likely aren't going to spend a ton of time reading a press release -- they probably receive hundreds a day. If your release looks too long, read over it and see if there may be some unnecessary information you can cut out of it. In some circumstances, this is an unavoidable, and if you must go onto a second page, it may be OK if the information is necessary. But one page is generally preferred.

4. Include your company logo and a media contact at the top of the release:
Personally, I have written several press release for various companies. A lot of companies/clients have differing opinions on where to put your company logo. Some put it in the top right corner of the documents, some prefer it centered and some align it top left. Personally I prefer it top right, and I think that is the general PR consensus, but as long as your logo is easily visible and at the top of the page, it should be good.

It is also important to have a media contact at the top of your release. This should be the point person at your company for this particular topic. Make sure to include full name, email address and phone number, so the media knows who and how to contact.

5. Don't forget about the boilerplate and ending of your release:

A boilerplate is shown at the bottom of a press release and is usually a section "about" your company. You'll want to include information such as when the company was founded, where it is located, what its primary focus/product/service is, what customers it serve, etc. There should always be links to your website and/or social pages as well. This should be kept to about a paragraph. Anything more than four or five sentences is too much. The point of a boilerplate is to allow journalists or other people reading the release to become familiar with your company.

Additionally, a press release should end with either "-30-" or "###" because this signifies that the release is over. If your release does have to go to two pages, the end of the first page should read "-more-"

Quick bonus tips:
-Press releases should answer the who, what, where, when and why of the event, launch, happening, etc.
-Provide quotes from company executives or managers if possible
-Make sure your grammar is flawless -- proofread several times and have others edit the release
-Have a compelling headline when you email out your release -- one that makes journalist want to open the email
-Journalists don't like attachments; paste your release into the email body when sending it out.

Community, do you have any tips on press release writing? Do you think the press release is a dying breed? Please, let me know!
Ryan O'Bleness
Community Manager
StartupNation, LLC

Comments

  • RichRich Las Vegas, NVPosts: 636administrator Site Admin
    Ryan,

    As always, you've shared some really helpful and substantive into in an area of entrepreneurship that can be a game changer for a startup's success - PR. We love PR at StartupNation because it can have a huge impact while fitting the typical startup's constrained (or should I say, non-existent!) marketing budget.

    I wanted to add a thought, though, that adds on to what you advised to make any PR effort truly powerful for a startup. That is to say, as important as it is to create the press release according to your suggested guidelines, at the end of the day simply putting out the release on the wire often gets you nothing but crickets among the media.

    If you really want to shake the PR tree, you have to somehow add onto the wire strategy with a creative approach to raising the profile of your press release and the compelling story within. You have to make personal outreach to get the attention of targeted journalists. You have to be resourceful to get your release noticed. That, in combination with the advice you provide above, is when startups will start seeing the real benefits and marketing impact of a good press release.

    What do you think?

    Rich
  • Ryan O'BlenessRyan O'Bleness Birmingham, Mich. Posts: 990administrator Site Admin
    Great thoughts, Rich. I absolutely agree with you. I agree that PR is an extremely impactful aspect of startups. Without it, a company's branding efforts, publicity and outreach would be nonexistent. Not putting enough emphasis on public relations efforts can be a big reason why a startup fails.

    Additionally, to your point about the sending of press releases, you hit the nail on the head. There is actual strategy involved with getting it to the right eyes at the right time. A lot of PR professionals would advise against putting a release on the wire at the top of the hour (you know right at 8 a.m., 9 a.m., etc.) and I agree with that. Why? That is because every single one of your competitors is doing that.

    That is also why media relations are such an important element to the PR game. Build a relationship with journalists ad figure out their mannerisms. Find out what time of day they are looking at news releases, find out how much time they spend on doing so each day and, of course, know which beats they cover.
    Ryan O'Bleness
    Community Manager
    StartupNation, LLC
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