The press release has been a mainstay of public relations since its inception decades ago.
And while it may seem a bit old-school to some, there’s a reason press releases have stood the test of time — they’re effective and produce results.
From generating media coverage to positioning yourself as a thought leaders in your industry, and ultimately help your business succeed and grow — there are a number of reasons why business owners need to learn how to write and distribute a press release.
Today, I’ll focus on part one of that process: how to write a press release.
If you’re trying to decide whether or not something warrants a press release, all you need to do is answer one question: Is it newsworthy?
For something to be newsworthy, it must be something that audiences outside of your internal organization will care about; something that has significance to a reporter and their readers, viewers, or listeners, or to other external stakeholders (potential investors, etc).
Here are a few factors to consider when determining if something is newsworthy:
- Impact: Who will this information affect? The broader and larger the impact, the more people will be interested.
- Timeliness: Why does this information matter now? Does your news relate to or tie back to a significant “moment in time” or event of some sort?
- Proximity: As a small business, this one should be easy to understand — proximity matters. For many small businesses or nonprofits, your news will likely matter more to local publications than to national ones, or publications that focus on other regions.
- Name recognition: Clout that comes with big recognizable names (well know people, organizations, companies, etc) will likely increase the interest in your news. If you’re partnering with, or involved with a big name that might generate this type of attention, consider issuing a press release.
Now that you know when to write a press release, let’s take a look at how you actually do it.
Here, I’ve outline the four major components of an effective press release:
1. The headline/subhead
The headline should be attention grabbing and encourage the reader to want to know more, while also being explanatory. This isn’t the time to use vague language.
Formatting tip: Make sure the headline is written in bold and the subhead is italicized.
2. The body
The body of your press release should stay as concise as possible, while making sure to get all of the important information across in an engaging manner. Reporters that read your release aren’t likely going to have the time to read page after page trying to understand the news.
There aren’t really a prescriptive number of pages or word count. It can vary depending upon the information the release is covering. The key is to keep it concise and not overly verbose, but at the same time make sure that you have all the relevant info included. So, the length can really vary depending upon the announcement.
Here are other things to keep in mind when pulling together the body of any press release:
- The dateline: Begin with a dateline of the city in which the press release originated and the date it was issued. This is especially important for small businesses that are distributing their press release to the local media.
- Keep it factual: Your press release should focus on answering the five W’s: who, what, when, where, and why.
- Factual doesn’t have to mean dry: While your press release should be as concise as possible and stick to the facts, it doesn’t have to be as dry as say, a research paper. Keep the language engaging.
- Avoid lazy mistakes: Typos and poor grammar in press releases make your business look unprofessional, and will likely turn off reporters.
- The quote: Most press release include a quote by the most relevant spokesperson for the topic of the release. The quote provides space to add some color commentary (going a bit beyond the factual basis of the rest of the release) and can also be pulled directly from the release by journalists to use in articles.
3. The boilerplate
This is the about us section where you provide background on your organization. It should be included following the body of every press release. The language used here can be the same in every release. Don’t forget to link to your company homepage to drive readers back and provide more information.
4. Contact Info
A reporter reads your press release and is interested in getting more information — great! But how will they know where to go?
Be sure to include relevant contact info for any inquiries that may arise from your press release.
This information should be listed at the very end of the release.
It doesn’t begin and end with creating the press release.
Keep in mind that while a well crafted press release is the foundation of a great public relations campaign, your efforts should not begin and end with the creation of the release.
Press releases work when you get their information in the right hands (reporters, other stakeholders) that will further extend the reach of your news, ultimately resulting in measurable business success.
Stay tuned for part two, where I’ll explain how to distribute and get results from your press release.
Have other questions about writing a press release? Post them in the comments below.