This post was originally published in October, 2013 and completely updated in April, 2020.
Let’s face it.
Some press releases are anything but epic.
Flavorless headlines and dry, unemotional storytelling can fumble a potentially great PR. If you’re new to PR writing or looking to boost efficiency, templates are a dependable solution. However, relying too heavily on a standard copy will leave your PR sounding bland and cold.
So what’s the secret ingredient that makes your reader’s jaw drop? How exactly do you write a good press release?
Newsflash: there’s no secret. Like all great writing, it starts with hooking your audience.
Like all great writing, a press release starts with hooking your audience. 🎣 Get more tips AND a fill-in-the-blank press release template right here ☑: Click To Tweet
Who is a Press Release Written For?
A PR is your direct line to journalists, influencers, and news editors. They receive a deluge of emails every day, so they only read the best PRs. Unfortunately, if yours isn’t up to snuff, it’s likely not even opened.
Want to write PRs journalists can’t resist opening? Make sure your PR hits these three points:
- It’s relevant. Your content is newsworthy and cutting-edge timely.
- It’s straightforward. Your formatting is consistent, clear, and ready to print.
- It’s juicy. Your story is engaging and gets people talking, which results in increased ROI.
Types of Press Release (And What a PR Can Do for Your Brand)
In this ultra-digital era, brands can tap into countless channels to announce innovations to the public. So, are press releases outmoded? No way! PRs are still one of the most budget-friendly ways to hit diverse brand targets and gain news coverage.
Check out these 5 examples of press releases from 2020 to see what your brand can do with a PR.
1. Shine a Spotlight on New Products and Services
Apple is constantly innovating, so to foster serious buzz for the iPad Pro they make sure to announce cutting-edge new features. It’s a stellar example of how to write a press release for a product. Here’s why: it’s social media-ready, with plenty of images and to-the-point details. Consider using this press release as a sample for your next product launch.
2. Highlight How Business Partnerships and Developments Connect to the Public
Google’s short and direct PR announcing a new business partnership is ready to be published as-is. By emphasizing fan experience, Google and MLB keep it hyper-relevant to the public.
3. Reveal Events
From conferences to concerts, 2020’s events are going virtual. Social Media Week is no exception – they created #SMWONE and used this PR to announce their agenda and speaker lineup. It’s a solid example of how to write a press release for an event, even the way we host events is changing.
In true SMW fashion, they keep it fun with emojis, hashtags, and plenty of ways to share.
4. Build Brand Awareness and Bolster Reputation
PRs help new brands cultivate a name for themselves. They’re also integral for pivoting from a social media snafu (it happens). For research-driven organizations, PRs can announce new studies to show authority on a subject.
Cisco’s summary of their Digital Readiness Index works on several levels: it displays social responsibility, demonstrates industry leadership, and provides an opportunity for backlinks.
5. Beware the Bandwagon
In the thick of the COVID19 crisis, this is one aspect of PRs we can’t ignore. Journalists’ inboxes are stuffed daily with brands eager to weigh in. Whether well-intentioned or opportunistic, this type of behavior isn’t new. However, it’s more concentrated than ever before, causing facepalms and frustration across Twitter.
It’s enough to make any company wary of sounding tone-deaf, but KFC gets it just right.
Partnered with non-profit Blessings in a Backpack, KFC’s PR focuses entirely on supporting food-insecure children. Here’s why it works: it’s 0% focused on selling.
Getting It Right the First Time: A Checklist for Beginners
Wondering what to include in your first press release? Use our sample press release template below to check you’ve covered all the key elements. It’s especially well-suited for traditional press release distribution services, such as PR Web.
Building your own media list? Check out our distribution guide for new press release formats for 2020.
Fill-in-the-Blank Press Release Template
[SUMMARIZE THE TOPIC OF THE PRESS RELEASE IN AN EYE-CATCHING HEADLINE]
[Provide Key Additional Details in the Subheader. If the Headline Reframes News to Amp Up Excitement, Here’s Where You Can Be More Direct]
[DATE AND LOCATION]
[This first introductory paragraph contains the most important information in the PR. It answers who, what, where, when, and why.]
[Give secondary details in the next paragraph, if necessary.]
[In the body copy, include authority quotes and stats. “If your organization has a chief spokesperson, remember to name them in full and give their job title,” said Jane Doe, CMO of XYZ Company.]
[Next is the boilerplate. It’s a precise about section that gives insight into your organization.]
[Include your press contact details last.]
### = Bold and centered, these three pound signs signify the end of your PR.
How to Format Your Press Release
Should you use Word or submit a PDF? A quick perusal of 3 press releases from major companies reveals that in 2020 PR writers:
1. Provide Several Formats
Chipotle’s PR keeps it professional by offering PDF and print format. For larger publications, RSS and email buttons make sharing easy.
2. Don’t Embed Images in the Document
Providing downloadable images makes your PR easier to copy-paste. By making them available in several formats, you’ll reach a wider array of journalists.
3. Write With Copy-Paste In Mind
Disney’s recent news is a great example of a good press release headline. Here’s why: it’s direct, relevant to the reader, and primed for Twitter.
Looking For More Examples?
Let’s dive in and explore the anatomy of amazing press releases.
Press Release Structure
Follow this roadmap to build a solid, professional press release from the ground up.
Step 1: Craft a Headline That Pops
Killer PR headlines are eye-catching, relevant, and to-the-point. Let’s explore three samples of press release headlines from 2020.
Netflix nails it with this release for Bert Kreischer’s new comedy special. It’s intriguing, edgy (which follows Kreisher’s brand), and primed for social media.
Lego’s headline uses wordplay to put a brand-specific spin on their product launch PR.
Adobe cleverly shifts the focus to celebrating a well-loved product while introducing new and revamped features as a “gift” to Photoshop fans.
Step 2: Lead With the Crucial Facts
In the age of clickbait and misleading articles, new writers risk picking up bad habits.
To avoid this, stick to the inverted pyramid. Not familiar with this journalism standby? This checklist will put you on the right track to writing a good press release.
- Most Important Details – Answer who, what, where, when, and why.
- Supporting Details – Carefully chose quotes and stats.
- More Information – Adda boilerplate and contact information.
Take NASA’s recent press release as an example. They hit all 5 W questions without wasting any time:
- Who: 12,000 applicants
- What: Applied to become astronauts
- Where: Every US state
- Why: Selected astronauts will explore the moon and their research will be used for future human missions to Mars.
- When: New astronaut candidates will be introduced in summer 2021.
Step 4: Show Your Authority With Stats and Quotes
Microsoft recently partnered with C3.ai and leading universities to create a consortium dedicated to AI research. This high-level, complicated endeavor is brought to the publicly relevant level through an emotionally-charged, authoritative quote. “I cannot imagine a more important use of AI,” C3.ai CEO Thomas M. Seibel says.
A rule of thumb when choosing quotations: use it to drive your story forward, and be sure to stay true to the voice of the quoted person.
Pampers uses stats as a driving force to announce their partnership with Shay Mitchell and Chrissy Teigen, who led an Instagram mom-chat. By pushing stats to the forefront, the personal anecdotes from both actresses are transformed into a positive response to Pampers’ initiative.
Step 5. Make It Easy for Readers to Follow Through
By now, your readers are hooked, excited, and eager to act. Want to hit your brand goals? You’ll need a call-to-action. Skipping it can mean reduced ROI, whether that means sales or engagement.
Take your CTA to the next level by adding direct action verbs, as Old Spice does here:
Their goal: announcing new products. Why it’s awesome: they bring back a beloved marketing campaign and release new products through storytelling. By giving readers a chance to Tweet their glee, the news stays upbeat and spreads organically.
For a more traditional CTA format, check out how McDonald’s uses curiosity to drive action.
Step 6. Keep it Concise
“Brevity is the soul of wit (and engagement),” Shakespeare wrote. OK, maybe we added “engagement”, but it’s still essential advice for writing effective PRs. Restrict yourself to 1-1.5 pages (about 400 words max). Remember, journalists often only read through your first paragraph and skim the rest.
Domino’s keeps it brief by using a simple rhyme as a hook and immediately jumping in.
The main takeaway: push toward your PR’s goal, then get out. Save the purple prose for Shakespeare.
Step 7: Use AP Style
Make it easy for the press to print your PR by writing it in AP Style. It’s standard at most news organizations, which means if your PR isn’t AP-ready, someone has to rewrite it before printing. Unfortunately, that can be enough for journalists to hit the “delete” button.
Not sure if your recipients use AP? Consider creating two versions. This will double as an A/B test, too.To be a real winner, your press release must be concise, properly formatted, authoritative, fact-driven, and more. 📝 Learn the essentials of press release structure via @JuliaEMcCoy 📰 Click To Tweet
Ready to take your press release from boring to brilliant, but not sure where to start? Check out our journalist-written press releases.
Write a Jaw-Dropping Press Release
It’s time to put your new skills to the test! You’ve got all the tools to start writing epic press releases that get results.
Prefer to leave it to the pros? Learn more about how our on-staff journalists craft all-star PRs by visiting our Content Shop.