A press release, or news release, is a written statement that is made available to the media. Press Releases are used to announce important news: impending events, personnel promotions, achievements and awards, new products and services, sales statistics and records, and other changes a company makes that will affect its consumers and the public.
Reporters are more likely to consider a story idea if they receive a press release well in advance. It is a fundamental tool of Public Relations work, and one that anyone who’s willing to use the proper format can put to use.
Step 1: Headline
Write a headline. It should be brief, clear and to the point: a distillation of the key point of the press release.
News release headlines should have a “hook” to attract the attention of a journalist, in the same way a newspaper headline must grab readers. Conventional press release headlines are present-tense and exclude “a” and “the” as well as forms of the verb “to be” in certain contexts.
A simple method to create a press release headline is to identify the most important keywords from the press release. Using these keywords, fashion a logical and attention-getting statement. Using keywords will provide better visibility in search engines, and it will be simpler for journalists and readers to get the idea of the press release content.
Step 2: Copy
Write the press release body copy. The press release should be written as you want it to appear in a news story. (Note: there are no guarantees that it will be picked up verbatim, in most cases a journalist will re-craft it, but some publications will run it as-is.)
Start with the date and city in which the press release is originated. The city may be omitted if it will be confusing, for example if the release is written in the location of the headquarters about events in one of the company’s distant branches.
The lead, or first sentence, should catch the reader’s interest and say what is happening in a crisp and active style. The following 1-2 sentences should build upon the lead – adding essential details.
The press release body copy should be “tightly” written. Long sentences and paragraphs are likely to be disregarded. Showy language and jargon must also be avoided.
The first paragraph (two to three sentences at most) must briefly summarize the press release. Additional content may then elaborate on the subject. In a fast-paced world, journalists and other readers do not have the patience to read an entire press release if it doesn’t get them excited from the very beginning.
Step 3: The 5 Ws + H
Provide all the pertinent facts – events, products, services, people, targets, goals, plans, and projects. A sure-fire method for writing an effective press release is to make a list of the following:
Communicate the 5 Ws and the H. Who, what, when, where, why, and how.
Who is involved or responsible?
What is the news or announcement?
When is it taking place or when did it start?
Where will it happen or where was it created?
Why is it going to happen or why was it created?
How will it happened or how was it created?
Generally, at the end of a press release, a paragraph that summarizes the company, or the source of this news, is provided to help the reader understand the background.
Arrange the press release in the following order:
- summary or introduction of the news
- event, achievement or product
- company background
A press release should be no more than three pages with the text double-spaced.
The more newsworthy the press release, the better chance it has to picked up by a journalist for reporting. Therefore, it is essential to learn what is considered “newsworthy” to a given market and use it to snag an editor or reporter.
Step 4: Company Info
At the end of the press release, include information about the company. When a journalist works on the story, this information helps create a context in which the news exists.
The text should describe the company with an overview of its business. At the end of this section, include a to website address. The link should be the exact and complete URL without any embedding so that, even if this page is printed, the link will be printed as it is.
Step 5: Contact info
Include contact information. If your press release has done its job, it will have motivated a journalist to seek more information and conduct interviews with the key people involved.
If there is no department or individual assigned to this function, an appointment must be made to designate someone to act as a link between the media and the company.
The contact details must include:
- The Company’s Official Name
- Media Department’s official Name and Contact Person
- Office Address
- Telephone and fax Numbers with proper country/city codes and extension numbers
- Mobile Phone Number (optional)
- Timings of availability
- E-mail Addresses
- Web site Address
Once you’ve completed the preceding steps, you’ll want to prepare the Press Releases by printing them on company letterhead and distributing them to the appropriate publications.
It is essential to do your homework when creating the list of journalists and publications you want to send your Press Releases to. Journalists move around a lot—it is important to call the publication to confirm names and titles and addresses.
After you’ve sent out your Press Releases, it pays to follow up with a phone call to ensure that it has been received and to offer any assistance. Getting your news successfully placed in the media requires preparation and planning, carefully creating the materials, strategic distribution and follow up.