How to Write a Press Release: 11 Tips to Fresh Copy

How to Write a Press Release: 11 Tips to Fresh Copy

by | Feb 7, 2023 | Press Releases

While press releases are an essential part of online marketing and digital communications, they’re tough to write, and few people understand their structure. Because of this, many companies and marketers hire expert writers or journalists to write press releases for them. However, understanding the format and how to write a press release important so you can recognize a good press release when you see it.

Then you can always evaluate your press release content and be more successful when promoting your brand image and new products.

While press releases can feel foreign, they all contain specific elements that should be present in every press release you issue.

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. This is true whether you plan to write your press releases yourself or hire someone else to do it for you.

Follow along as we share the 11 steps required to create an expertly crafted press release.

Press Release

What Is a Press Release?

A press release is an official statement from a business or organization that shares news with media outlets and the public. It is a formal document used to distribute relevant information in a simple, one-page format. The goal of a press release is to attract attention from the media and the public.

When Should You Use a Press Release?

As an official media document, press releases should be reserved for newsworthy events. If used too often for insignificant updates, your releases might get ignored.

Press releases are commonly used for the following types of announcements or events:

  • Product launches
  • Significant service changes
  • Hiring or leaving of company executives
  • Funding announcements
  • Breaking news
  • Public and private events
  • Grand openings and groundbreakings

Press Releases vs. Company Announcements

To the untrained reader, a press release might just seem like a fancy term for a company announcement. While a press release is technically an announcement, from a journalistic perspective, it’s viewed as a primary source that can be cited.

Press releases are the source of official information. If a company shares the same news in another way, like a tweet or a blog, it will likely link back to the official press release.

Since they are structured more formally, press releases also differ from other types of announcements because they are meant to be shared by media outlets.

11 Steps to Writing a Press Release

No matter what kind of business you run, press releases are critical. They are an ideal medium for telling the media, Google, and your readers when something new and exciting has happened within your company. Use press releases to announce partnerships, product launches, new hires, and more.

If your business has never written a press release before, don’t worry. Our 11 foundational tips will guide you through the process.

1. Use the Correct Release Language 

When submitting a press release to a news outlet, you must tell them when you would like it published. 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.

However, if you need to hold the release until a certain date (this is common with product launches), put “HOLD RELEASE UNTIL” along with 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.

2. Use Your Company Logo and Colors 

Branding in a press release is crucial if you want your readers to know what your brand represents. To make your press releases more impactful and recognizable, use your company’s logos and colors in the headline section.

Check out how the autonomous driving company Motional added their logo to the top of a recent press release:

Motional Pr Header

3. Include Keywords in Your Press Release Headlines 

Just like in other types of online content, you should include SEO keywords in your press release headlines. This makes it easier for search engines to find and rank your press release while ensuring that the media and your readers understand what your press release is about.

Remember: you don’t want to go overboard with keywords – just include them naturally throughout like you do with other content.

Check out how Apple does this in a press release published on December 6, 2022. In this case, you could safely assume the keywords Apple targeted include “App Store pricing:”

Apple Pr Keywords

Another consideration is the capitalization of your headlines. If you are following official AP Style capitalization, all the words in your headline should be capitalized except for prepositions and words shorter than four letters.

As you can see in the example above, Apple only capitalized proper nouns. However, they published the press release on their website. If they had published the press release on an official news website, choosing title case capitalization would be the better option.

For best results, keep your headlines under 160 characters. Longer than that and readers may lose interest, and you risk having your headline truncated by Google.

Your headline must pique the interest of a very limited demographic – journalists. While you might want to write for your customers, a press release is for the press. Make sure your headline is factual, informative, and attention-grabbing.

Here are a few tips to help you write more effective press release headlines:

  • Use Numbers: Numbers are easier to understand than vague descriptions. For example, would you rather read: “Sales Increase in the Fourth Quarter” or “Sales Increase by 40% in the Fourth Quarter”?
  • Think of a Press Release Like a Newspaper Article: If you read through a list of newspaper article headlines and press release headlines, you likely wouldn’t be able to tell them apart. When writing your press release headline, think like a journalist and make the biggest impact you can with limited space.
  • Use the Present Tense: Even if something has already happened, a press release should talk about it in the present tense, especially in the headline. Instead of “Company X Hired New CEO,” change it to “Company X Hires New CEO.”
  • Avoid Sales Language: It can be tempting to encourage people to buy something from your business in a press release. However, press releases are for sharing information, not promoting products. If you are sharing information on a new product launch, your headline should talk about why the product is important, not why someone should buy it.

4. Write a Summary Paragraph

Every press release includes a summary paragraph positioned after the headline. This briefly summarizes your announcement. Additionally, most of these summary paragraphs stick between one and five sentences.  Some are even formatted as bullet points.

This little paragraph is critical because it helps readers understand immediately whether to interact with the press release or move on to find something that better suits their needs. It can also help busy journalists understand why your press release matters and decide if they want to cover it.

Here’s an example of what a good summary paragraph looks like, from a recent Ford press release:

Ford Pr Summary

You’ll note that Ford includes a one-sentence summary in italics to help it stand out.

Consider writing this paragraph last to ensure that it remains a summary. That way you do not include any new information.

Adding a keyword or two in this paragraph could also be helpful, depending on the length of your summary. It’s easy to forget your company name in a headline, so make sure it’s in the summary if you do leave it out.

Finally, with a limited amount of information to include, make sure each sentence is as clear and concise as possible. You only have a few sentences to convince your readers that your press release is worth their time.

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 including your location information. As you write your press release, add the city, state, month, day, and year of publication.

Here’s an example of that from the same Ford press release:

Ford Pr Location And Date

This information adds context to your press release and will help orient the reader about when the information came out. What’s more, the current city and publication date help readers recognize the press release as recent and relevant.

6. Craft Your First Paragraph 

The first paragraph, also known as the “lead” of the press release should contain the primary purpose of your press release.

There are six elements that you need to include here:

  • Who: Who is the press release about? Who is the 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 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 the purpose of your press release.

Check out how NASA includes all these elements in a press release issued on December 11, 2022:

Nasa Pr Opening Sentence

Nasa answers each question:

  • Who? NASA’s Orion spacecraft
  • What? Splashdown of the Orion spacecraft
  • Why? Shows the progression of the mission to return to the Moon
  • When? December 11, 2022, at 9:40 a.m. PST
  • Where? Pacific Ocean, west of Baja California
  • How? Announces record-breaking space mission

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 three or four sentences. Break up the body accordingly, but make sure that each paragraph is cohesive and flows well from the preceding paragraph.

In these paragraphs, you will share facts about your press release topic. For example, if you are announcing a new product, you would share details about its features. However, if you are hiring a new CEO, you would share some background information on the new person.

The body of a press release should include a quote, if possible. If there is someone significant who can offer a relevant, valuable comment, you should add it. This will give your readers an objective view of your press release, and, if you quote experts, make your press release stand out as credible.

Consider this example from an American Airlines press release. The airline moved to a new terminal at JFK airport and got a quote from the governor of New York:

American Airlines Pr Quote

You can also consider adding additional media content like photos or videos. However, you should limit this to two pieces of content. In some instances, like if you are emailing your press release, it might be better to include a link to the source instead of inserting it into the press release. For example, include a link to a video the reader can find on YouTube instead of increasing the size of your press release.

8. Wrap It Up with a Compelling Last Paragraph 

Consider your last paragraph as a space for your closing remarks. If you are launching a new product, place the products available here. You can also put the product’s trademark and any pertinent information you may have that doesn’t fit into the body.

This paragraph should give your reader all the information he or she needs to understand the “next steps.” Even if those details are where to find your upcoming event or how to contact your new HR manager.

9. About the Company (Boilerplate Information) 

After your body paragraphs, you should add your company information, called a boilerplate. This is where you can share some of your company’s merits and achievements, 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 general information they can include in their writing about your company. This will give their readers more context and will help make your company more professional and recognizable. Boilerplate information rarely changes, so you can use the same text over and over. Just double-check its accuracy each time in case something has changed.

Here is an example from the same American Airlines press release:

American Airlines Pr Boilerplate

Notice how it includes company information for both American Airlines and British Airways. This is because the press release is about both companies. If you write a press release about a business partnership, you should include boilerplate information for all the companies involved.

10. Add Your Current Contact Information

After reading your press release, journalists or potential customers may want to know how to contact you. That’s why it’s crucial 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 the information you include is current so people never have trouble getting in touch with you.

11. Tie It Up with a Bow 

At the end of your press release, you should include the word END or three pound signs (###). This will tell your readers they’ve reached the end and nothing else is coming.

Fast Tips for Better Press Releases

With an understanding of the overall structure of the press release, you will be better equipped to recognize a good press release when you see one. To make your press releases even better, here are a few more tips:

1. Writing 

  • Write in Third Person: Unless you’re using a direct quote, the words “I,” “we,” and “you” don’t have a place in press releases. A professional voice is critical and will make your press release feel more authoritative.
  • Write to Your Readers: Press releases are meant for readers. Put yourself in their shoes to better understand their perspective 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 not the place for inefficient communication. You’re your point clearly and remove any words, phrases, or approaches that don’t immediately clarify your point.
  • 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 respond better to a press release that gives the necessary details of a product/event without overhyping it. The more objective and neutral your press release can be, the better.
  • Get Rid of Jargon: Jargon makes your press release difficult to understand and inaccessible to many readers. Cut it out whenever possible.
  • Proofread and Edit Carefully: Read your press release carefully to help avoid costly mistakes. Spelling, grammar, or factual errors can make your press release look unprofessional. Before publishing, read the press release out loud to make sure it sounds correct.

2. Distribution

  • Don’t Syndicate: Once the preferred method of press release distribution, syndication is now dead. While some brands use to spend thousands of dollars each month to distribute their press releases, experts like Time Grice have since come to say that there is “no value in press release syndication for SEO purposes.” Instead of staking this approach, share your press release with local media outlets. You’ll enjoy a better ROI, and your press releases will get more traction.
  • Follow-up by Phone or Email: Once you’ve sent your press releases 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.
  • Post On Your Website: While sharing with public media outlets is the purpose of press releases, you should also publish them on your own site. Many businesses create a dedicated “news” page for all their newsworthy information or adapt their press releases to publish on their blog.

3. Optimization 

  • Include Relevant Keywords: These keywords should be searchable and relevant to 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 you don’t overwhelm the text.

Better Press Releases Start Here

Knowing what it takes to write a great press release can give you better control over your brand image. Whether you write them in-house or hire something else to do it, understanding what you’re looking for can lead to more success.

Need a great press release? Trust our copywriting and PR experts at Express Writers to create high-quality PR for you. Explore our content shop to see what we can offer you.

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