How To… Write a Press Release

Writing a press release well is not as easy as you might think. There are many elements to consider. In this page, the creators of Your-Story.org The Press Release Resource, explain many of the key elements of writing a press release.

Particular attention, here, is paid to writing a press release for digital distribution – some conventions which were used for traditional (printed, on paper) press releases are slightly different with digital press releases.

When you’ve finished reading this page, and have produced a press release which you’d like to have considered for free publication on the Your Story website, you should visit the Press Release Options page by clicking here.

Things To Consider Before Writing a Press Release

Before you get started, there are several things you should have the following to keep in mind throughout the process of writing your press release:

  • Audience – who will be reading your press release, i.e. which journalists (or sort of journalist) do you expect to pick up your release and turn it into a news item?
  • Subject Matter – what is your press release about - what key theme is to be discussed?
  • Most Importantly, Where’s the News? This is sometimes called a News Hook. You should be able to think of this before you get started. If your intended press release won’t deliver anything that a journalist could call “news” then you shouldn’t write it.

Format – The Elements of a Press Release

There are several elements that a properly constructed press release should contain.

  1. Headline – Your headine should be a keyword rich, attention grabbing very brief statement of the key elements within your press release. It should mention who you are, the main subject of the press release, and, if possible, your News Hook. Don’t make your headline too long, however… or too short. A good rule of thumb is around 5-10 words.
  2. Dateline – containing Date, City, State/Region, Country – this is a technical requirement for journalists letting them know explicitly when your press release was put out. For digital distribution this becomes important, as a journalist could stumble across your release next year! When they do so, they might still use a bit of your info “as company X said in a press release of July 2009″ for example. They’ll only be able to do this if you give them a dateline. The dateline should come before your press release body text.
  3. Introduction – Your introductory paragraph is probably the most important when it comes to the success or failure of your press release to deliver your message. Spend much time on it. This paragraph should explain the who, what, where and when elements of your press release and importantly why the person reading the press release should write a story about it: your News Hook. All key information should be included in this paragraph, but it should remain as concise as possible.
  4. Press Release Body – this is a few paragraphs (as many as you need) where you add some meat to the bones provided within the introduction, by introducing some statistics, quotes, explanations and other elements that a journalist would need to know were he or she to produce a story based upon your press release.
  5. The Boilerplate – or “About” section – this is a paragraph about the company, person or entity issuing the press release. Include date founded, company website, physical location(s), numbers of staff and anything else that you think people would like – or need – to know about the issuer of the press release. You should answer this question: Who are you?
  6. Closing – the end of your press release should be marked. This is usually three hashes “###” but some issuers write “ENDS” or “-30-”. “###” is more commonly used, so is recommended. It literally means “this is the end of the press release, no further information follows.”
  7. Media Contact Information – Should the media need to contact you before publishing the information you speak about in the press release, they will need your contact information. When press releases are printed, this usually is placed at the top of the release. However, for digital distribution, we recommend placing it at the foot of your press release, to allow the journalist reading the release to get straight into your news, and then make a decision to contact you having digested your release. This should contain your name, role, business, address, telephone number and email address.

Sample Press Release

To help you visualise all of the above in practice, we’ve created a Sample Press Release which demonstrates all of the above.

Style – Writing Your Press Release

Your press release should be written using what is commonly called the Inverted Pyramid style. This means, quite simply, that you should start with the most important information, and then, with each paragraph in the body text, you should add points that are of lesser importance. At the end of your release, you should recap the key point(s) and News Hook.

Some key style points:

  • Your press release must be genuinely newsworthy and the newsworthiness of your release should be obvious from the title, and the introduction. The details should be easily extracted from the body of your release.
  • Capture the reader’s attention with a News Hook – remember that journalists are always looking for an “angle” or an approach. Give them one.
  • Your title and introduction are often your only opportunity to grab the reader – concentrate a lot of effort on making them attention-grabbing. Remember that the journalist may see your press release title in an RSS reader or email list. Make them want to click and open your press release before anyone else’s – because, once they are writing an article or preparing a TV segment on your news, they aren’t reading anyone else’s press release, are they?
  • Be factual – don’t make claims you can’t assert (like biggest, fastest, best) unless you have compelling evidence (a reliable source) for anything you do claim.
  • Be concise – journalists and media professionals are always working to tight deadlines. They don’t need to read flowery language (that’s their job, remember) you just need to explain the facts: what you do/have done, and why it is news.
  • Don’t market and don’t hype – you are talking to an industry professional. A media insider. They have heard every claim that has been made. They don’t need to hear another business telling them how brilliant they are, or how “Company X are revolutionizing the world of…” they simply need to know who, what, where, when and why … and why it is news their audience needs to know.
  • Spellcheck – and check (and double-check) your punctuation and grammar. Get someone else to proof read and correct your press release, then re-read it yourself. Errors suggest you haven’t spent time writing your release. If you can’t be bothered to read your press release through at least once, why do you expect a busy journalist to read it? To err is human, to correct, professional.

If you follow all of the above rules, you’ll quickly find that media professionals pick up your press releases and use them to create stories about your news.

Once you have written a press release, you should visit the Press Releas Options page and select one of the methods to send it via Your-Story.org to as large a digital audience as possible.

Visit the How To page for more advice on preparing and submitting press releases.