While press releases are an essential part of online marketing and digital communication, they’re tough to write, and few people understand their structure.
This is why companies and marketers often hire experts and journalists to write press releases for them. (Smart idea.)
But, how do you know what makes up a good press release, if you’re totally new to what a successfully written press release looks like? You need to be able to evaluate if your PR is going to be successful.
While press releases can feel foreign, they all contain certain elements. These elements should be present in all your press releases.
In the words of Robert Wyne, a prominent Forbes contributor, press releases “are formulaic, by nature, but so are poetry, tweets, columns and other written communications. Everyone has constraints. Chefs work within an 8-inch pan to create an omelet, and the great ones know how to pick the best ingredients and mix them to create a savory sensation. Writers can season their sentences within the confines of a release.”
When you know what to include in your press release and how to structure it, your PR material will be more official, credible, and useful for readers. Read our guide and be inspired on how to craft well-written press releases.
11 Steps to Writing a Press Release (Samples Included)
No matter if you run a digital marketing company or a record label management company — press releases are critical.
Ideal for telling the media, Google, and your readers that something new and exciting has taken place within your company, press releases can be used to announce new hires, partnerships, product launches, and more.
If you’ve never written a press release, don’t worry. Here are ten foundational tips to guide you through the process. Don’t have time to craft one? We can help.Learn what a good press release looks like and how to write one with @JuliaEMcCoy's 11-step press release writing guide. 📰 #pressrelease Click To Tweet
1. Use the Correct Release Language
If you’re ready for your press release to go out to the public right now, use the words “FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE” at the top of the press release. If you need to hold the release until a certain date, however (this is commonly the case in product launches), put HOLD RELEASE UNTIL before your specified date.
This is an important piece of your press release article because it tells readers and journalists when you want to see your article on the web or in print. It also gives you control over when the press release hits the media, which can have a massive impact on the success of your press release efforts.Remember: Write 'FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE' if you want your #pressrelease to go out to the public ASAP; 'HOLD RELEASE UNTIL + date ' if you want to hold it until a certain date. 📝 Read more PR writing tips here. Click To Tweet
2. Use Your Company Logo and Colors
You know that branding is critical pretty much everywhere else on the web, so why not in a press release?
To make your PR more recognizable and impactful, use your company’s logos and colors in the headline section. Check out how the football team The Miami Dolphins did it in this recent press release:
Notice they also included their contact information at the top of the PR rather than the bottom. That’s totally acceptable – it’s just up to you to decide what you like better!Branding is critical even on your press release. Use your company's logo and colors in the headline section! 🏷️ Read more about @JuliaEMcCoy's 11 steps to writing a good press release. Click To Tweet
3. Include Keywords in Your Press Release Headlines
Headlines should include the keywords you’ve chosen to target in your press release. This makes them easier for search engines to find and rank, and helps ensure that your readers and the media understand the subject of the press release. Remember that you don’t want to go overboard with the keywords — just include them naturally throughout.
Check out how GameStop does this in a press release published January 22, 2017. In this case, you could safely assume the keywords the company is targeting include “Nintendo Switch systems”:
Beyond that, all words in your headline should be in Title Case, meaning that all the words in your headline should have capitalization except for prepositions and words that are shorter than 4 letters. You can see an example of this in the headline above.
For best results, keep your headline to fewer than 160 characters. Longer than that and readers will find it too long. You’ll also risk having your headline truncated by Google.PR headline writing tips: ✒️ 1) Use keywords, ✒️ 2) Write in title case, and ✒️ 3) Keep them short up to 160 characters. Read more PR writing tips in @JuliaEMcCoy's PR guide. Click To Tweet
4. Write a Summary Paragraph
The summary paragraph should be short, no more than 5 sentences and should be written to give the reader an overview of your press release.
This is a critical little paragraph since it helps readers understand immediately whether they should interact with the press release or move on to find something that suits their needs more closely. It can also help busy journalists understand what your press release covers and pick it up if they see fit.
Here’s an example of what a good summary paragraph looks like, from a recent Vail Resorts press release:
Also notice how this press release provides two bullet points at the top, designed to give the press some fast facts about the acquisition. That’s a great trick!
To make your summary paragraph interesting and compelling to readers, use it to include the most relevant and exciting information, and lay out the key points of the press release.
When you provide value early on, your readers can decide whether to stay or go.'The summary paragraph is a short -- with no more than 5 sentences -- paragraph providing an overview of the press release. Be sure to use the most relevant and exciting information that will keep your readers reading.' - @JuliaEMcCoy… Click To Tweet
5. Include the City, State, Month, Day, and Year
While press releases are meant for wide audiences, it’s also important to tie them into your geographical location.
This means that including your local information is critical. As you compose the press release, add the city, state, month, day, and year of its publication.
Here’s another example of what that looks like, called out in the same Vail press release:
This will put your press release into context and orient the reader about the date and time of your article. What’s more, current city and publication date information helps readers recognize the press release as recent and relevant.'Local information is critical. Add the city, state, month, day, and year of the press release's publication to let your readers recognize the PR is recent and relevant.' - @JuliaEMcCoy on her 11 steps to writing a #pressrelease Click To Tweet
6. Craft Your First Paragraph
The first paragraph, also known as the “lead” of the press release should contain the gist of your press release.
There are 6 elements that should be present here:
- Who. Who is the press release about? Who is your company or the main players involved in this document?
- What. What is the topic of the press release? Why should readers care?
- Why. Why are you sending out the press release? How does it affect your customers or readers?
- When. When is the subject of the press release (the product release or new hire, for example) taking place?
- Where. Where is your company located? If there’s an event people need to know about, where is it taking place?
- How. How does the subject of your press release provide value? How does it help your readers?
Including this information will better orient the reader and help them understand your press release’s purpose.
Check out how NASA includes all these elements in a press release issued February 20, 2017:
🛎️ Your #pressrelease should always answer the five Ws and one H - who, what, why, when, where, and how. 🛎️ Know more about these elements in @JuliaEMcCoy's post about PR writing. Click To Tweet
7. Develop the Body of the Press Release
The body of your press release should expand the content of the first paragraph. Each paragraph should be no more than 3 or 4 sentences. Break up the body accordingly, but make sure that each paragraph is cohesive and flows well from the preceding paragraph.
This paragraph is where you will explain your new product, your discovery or any advances that your company has made. You should also include quotes, if they are available. This will give your readers an objective view of your press release and, if you quote experts, should make your press release stand out as credible.'The #pressrelease body expands the content of the first paragraph. Each paragraph shouldn't be more than 3 or 4 sentences, cohesive and flows well from the preceding paragraph.' - @JuliaEMcCoy on her 11 steps to PR writing. Click To Tweet
8. Wrap It Up with a Compelling Last Paragraph
Consider your last paragraph a space for your closing remarks. If you are launching a new product, place the product’s availability here. You can also put the product’s trademark and any pertinent information that you may have that doesn’t fit into the body.
To put it another way: this paragraph should give your reader all the information he or she needs to understand the “next steps,” regardless of whether that’s where to find your upcoming event or how to contact your new HR manager.
In some cases, a last paragraph can even be used to include a relevant influencer quote, like this press release, published on FloridaTrend.com, does:
'Wrap up your press release by telling your reader what to do next. Write about a launching product's availability and trademark, an event's date and venue, or the said person's/business' contact info.' - @JuliaEMcCoy on PR writing. Click To Tweet
9. About the Company (Boilerplate Information)
This is the place where you can write (briefly) about your company. You can put your company’s merits and achievements here, but don’t make it too long, since this will put you at risk of sounding like you’re hard-selling your company.
Boilerplate information is designed to give journalists something with which to offer readers context and can help make your company more recognizable and professional.Your PR's boilerplate information should talk briefly about the company -- its merits and achievements. 🏆 Read more PR writing tips in this guide by @JuliaEMcCoy Click To Tweet
10. Add Your Current Contact Information
Once journalists or customers read your press release, they may want to know how to contact you. This is why it’s so critical to include your current contact information in your press release. For best results, include your email address, telephone number and a link to your company’s website and social profiles. Make sure that the information you include is current so people never have any trouble getting ahold of you.'Don't forget to include your current contact information so journalists and readers will know how to reach you. This includes your email address, telephone number, website, and social media profiles.' - @JuliaEMcCoy on PR writing Click To Tweet
11. Tie It Up with a Bow
At the end of your press release, you should include the word END or ###. This will tell your readers that nothing follows. It also tells journalists that the end of the press release has been reached.How do you end a press release? Just type 'END' or '###' to tell that it's the end of the PR and nothing else follows. 👏🏽 Read more in @JuliaEMcCoy's 11 steps to good #pressreleasewriting Click To Tweet
Fast Tips for Better Press Releases
Now that you understand the overall structure of the press release, let’s talk about how to write a great one. Here are a few tips, ranging from your voice to how to put the press release together.
- Write in Third Person. Unless you’re using a direct quote, the phrases “I” and “we” don’t have a place in press releases. A professional voice is critical and will take you far.
- Write to Your Readers. Press releases are meant for readers. Take a walk in their shoes to understand their perspectives and concerns.
- Keep It Brief. Press releases should be one page, or between 400-500 words.
- Don’t Beat Around the Bush. A press release is no place for jargon or inefficient communication. Make your point clearly and remove any words, phrases, and approaches that don’t help clarify your point immediately.
- Keep the Adjectives to a Minimum. Adjectives are distracting and difficult to read. Limit them for clearer and more efficient press releases.
- Keep It Objective. Readers will respond better to a press release that gives the details of a show than they will to one that simply tells everyone how great an upcoming event is. The more objective your press release can be, the better.
- Get Rid of Jargon. Jargon makes your press release difficult to understand and inaccessible for many readers. Cut it out wherever possible.
- Proofread and Edit Carefully. Do your own careful review to avoid costly errors. This will save you from troublesome spelling and grammar mistakes and make your PR look more professional.
- Don’t Syndicate. Once the preferred method of press release distribution, syndication is now dead. While some brands used to spend thousands of dollars each month to distribute their press releases, experts like Tim Grice have since come out to say that there is “no value in press release syndication for SEO purposes.” Instead of taking this approach, share your press release with local media outlets. You’ll enjoy a better ROI and your press release will get more traction.
- Follow-up by Phone or Email. Once you’ve sent your press release out to your local media outlets, follow-up with a phone call or email. This personal touch can help cement your press release on a journalist’s radar and make it easier for them to remember.
- Include Relevant Keywords. These keywords should be searchable and relevant to the topic of your press release.
- Don’t Overstuff. Going overboard on keywords will give your press release a spammy, dense feeling, which you don’t want. Don’t overstuff or you risk turning your readers off.
- Use Multimedia. Multimedia elements like videos or images can be fantastic for enhancing your press release. Use them sparingly, though, so as not to overwhelm the text.
Better Press Releases Start Here
When you know what it takes to write a great press release, it’s easier to do it in house. This gives you greater control over your press releases and makes authoring them on your own simple and fun.
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