Write a Press Release that Works!
When it comes to letting the world know about what you’re doing, some of your strongest allies are members of the news media. Whether you’re releasing a revolutionary new product, opening a bricks-and-mortar location in a high-traffic area, or appointing an in-demand professional to your staff, some news deserves to be shouted from the rooftop. And the great thing about media placements (not to be confused with paid advertisements in newspapers or magazines) is that they’re free. If an editor or journalist decides your story is newsworthy, he or she can mention it in an article or event listing—or even dedicate an entire feature to your company. Of course, first you have to present a compelling narrative that says “What we’re doing deserves more press than those other guys.” You can make sure your news receives the attention it deserves with a polished, engaging press release. Check out these helpful press release writing tips and get started right away!
Format, Format, Format
When you’re putting together a great press release, following a few formatting guidelines will go a long way in showing journalists that you’re a professional. At the top of the page, you’ll want to include your company’s logo and a brief header containing the date, the contact person’s name and information (it’s best to include an email address and a phone number, if possible), and the words “For Immediate Release” so that members of the media will know you’re not asking them keep anything under wraps until a later date. (By the way, they’re not obligated to do so even if you request it—just an FYI to save you some trouble!)
Under this header, you want a bold headline—we’re talking about bolding the text, which should be all caps, but we’re also suggesting that you make a statement that’s strong and, if the news is positive, exciting. (Otherwise, why would you “shout” it?) Ask yourself what will grab the reader’s eye right away. If you feel the need to include a second headline, you can place it directly underneath your main one in bold font, but turn the caps lock off.
Below your headline(s) is the body of your text. One effective way to deliver the information is to repeat the main idea contained in your headline in the first sentence or two, and then follow up with details. Underneath that, you can insert “boilerplate,” which is content summarizing who you and your organization are (if you don’t have any, don’t worry—we’ll get to that next time.) Then, at the bottom, finish with ” ### “—long before Twitter, publicists and press representatives used hashtags to signify the conclusion of the release.
Keep it Short and Sweet
One of the most important press release writing tips we can share is to be succinct. Deliver the facts and any ideas or details that are truly compelling—no more, no less. For example, if you’re announcing the opening of a new retail location, the most important things you can tell readers are the street address, the date of the opening, and any celebrations or promotions you’re offering to commemorate the date. Don’t feel that you have to go into great detail about why you chose this location—a nice two-sentence quote from company president about the value of the surrounding community is enough.
If you can keep your content creation to one or two pages, you’re on the right track (and you absolutely can adjust margins and fonts to help shorten your document.) The less the reader has to scroll to get the main points, the better. And, when you fit your content on one page, it’s nice to know that if a journalist who prefers to print releases before reading them won’t lose or mix up any subsequent pages.
It’s All About the Details
While you’re keeping things concise, you also want to make sure the reader really understands what is most important about your news—the who, what, when, where, why, and how. Draw the eye to what really matters by bolding a few of the most important words in the first few sentences. You might say “Name of Your Company will be releasing Name of Hot New Product on Saturday, February 15,” for example. That way, someone who’s just scanning your release will get your main points immediately (and copy and paste them, if desired!) Ideally, your press release almost writes the article you’d like to read for the journalist … but not quite!
Point the Way to More Information
It can be pretty tough to confine yourself to one or two pages of written content when there’s so much you’d like members of the media—and their respective readerships—to know about you, your company, and what you’re doing. That’s why you’re going to be very clear in your press release about where journalists and readers can find more information. A link to your web site is very likely the single best resource you can provide, but if there are other points of contact (such as a phone hotline for purchasing tickets to an event, for example), be sure to include them as well.
So there you have it—a press release that really does justice to the news you hope to share with the world. Your next job is to put it into the hands (or inboxes) of members of the media who are most likely to be interested in what you have to say. Not sure how to do that? Don’t worry—we are! Stay tuned for a future blog entry about how to find and contact journalists whose areas of coverage are appropriate for your niche and get your news published. And, as promised, we’ll be back soon to help you write boilerplate content to use in a variety of press releases and other communications.