How To Write an Effective Press Release

Is your press release worth reading?

Unfortunately, the press release has suffered a bit of a reputation hit the last few years, as some people see it as an outdated promotion technique. The outlets for spreading news have evolved so much over the years (hello, social media!) that getting the word out is easier than ever.

However, within the world of journalists, reporters, news outlets, and media, the trusty old press release is alive and well, continuously proving to be an effective and successful way to gain publicity for yourself and your business.

Why Are They Important?

A pretty common question we hear often is, “Why should I care about sending out a press release?” Consider this — you’ve just released a new product or service, hired a new team member, or signed an awesome new client. Public and media awareness is important because it earns the type of credibility that advertising simply cannot buy. A press release achieves not just visibility, but publicity, responsiveness, and can even garnish new business if it reaches the right audience. The purpose of your press release is to promote something significant and important, something you feel is valuable enough to share with others.

There are a few different types of press releases you can write announcing a variety of things. Identify the type of news you want to publicize and write the content accordingly.

What’s Worthy of a Press Release?
General news
New launch
Upcoming event
New or updated product or service
Executive or employee announcement
Award of recognition
New partnership or client

How Do You Write a Press Release People Will Read?

That is the big question and probably the hardest part of coming up with content. How do you compete with flooded inboxes, avoid being shuffled into spam mail, and gain the attention of incredibly busy reporters?

This is the challenge everyone faces when trying to get their news publicized. The hardest part of writing a great press release is creating content that will get noticed and picked up by the right people. You don’t want to waste your time writing something that nobody is going to read or share. If the goal of your press release is to gain attention, it’s important that you’re producing the engaging content to do just that.

Let’s talk about the few steps that are important to remember when writing a press release.

1. Newsworthy Topics

Your press release is a story you’re trying to tell, a story you want to make interesting to others. You should consider the topic of your press release the subject of your story and write to the audience that would be interested in that story. Remember that your press release is a marketing tactic, the goal is to get as much publicity, awareness, and interest as possible, ideally, from as many relevant people as possible. So when selecting your topic, choose something engaging, interesting, and worthwhile. Always be thinking of your readers — what do they want to know about, what is worth their time, and what holds the most value to the public?

2. Headlines that Pack a Punch

The headline is arguably the single most important piece of copy in your press release. It’s the first thing people see and it will determine if someone is going to keep reading. Your headline needs to be compelling, interesting, and inspire the reader, so it can be tricky trying to come up with a headline that accomplishes all of that. When writing your headline, state the facts as clearly and simply as possible, making sure your company name makes it into the first few words. Be clear and concise, telling readers right away what your release is about and why it’s important.

This can be tricky to do in 30-100 characters, so take your time and brainstorm a list of possible headlines you like. Writing down some options will help you weed out weaker titles and find the strongest of the bunch. Need a little help? It’s an art, not a science.

Once you’ve selected a great headline, write a sub-headline to accompany the title. Writing a sub-headline will further engage your readers and clarify in more detail the purpose and worth of your press release. Think of your sub-header as a way to further draw readers into your content, to keep their attention, and encourage them to continue reading. You can include anything from statistics, important names, or answers to questions in your sub-headline.

3. The Big, Bad Body Copy

If you’ve captured your readers’ attention enough to continue on, they’ve reached the star of the show – the leading paragraph. Your leading paragraph can make or break your press release. In roughly 30-50 words, your leading paragraph should efficiently explain the reason for the press release. Unless you give them a compelling reason to continue, very few people will read past this part, so try and answer these few questions in your opening statement:

Who is this about?
What happened; what’s the story?
When did it happen?
Where did it happen?
Why does it matter?

Answer these questions in your first few sentences and be sure to keep it simple, factual, and relevant to your reader.

When writing your main body copy, there are a few good things to keep in mind. Let’s go through the list of key points to consider when writing your content.

1. Write in the third person. Although it may not be as engaging as using “I” or “We,” writing in the third person helps establish a sense of credibility in the information you’re providing.

2. Make your point and be clear. A press release is not the time for elaborate or long-winded paragraphs. Tell the reader what they need to know in as few words as possible and never use jargon — it can obscure your message.

3. Answer questions. Try and predict questions your readers may have, and answer them accordingly.

4. Remain objective. A press release in nature is a bit of a humble brag but try and remain as neutral and objective as possible when talking about your business. Be positive, but don’t go over the top.

5. Be formal, but not dull. The point of your content is to get the facts out, but that doesn’t mean it needs to read like a software update agreement. Be factual, but be interesting. It’s okay to let your personality show through.

Finally, and I cannot stress this enough, PROOFREAD YOUR CONTENT! Read your copy, have a co-worker review it, let your neighbor skim it, email it to your second cousin – just make sure that more than one set of eyes proofreads your press release because no reporter or journalist is going to be impressed by typos or grammatical errors.

4. Boilerplate Copy and Contact Information

To wrap things up, add your boilerplate copy and contact information. The boilerplate copy is simply a short paragraph about your company, highlighting why your company matters, and things you’ve done. You can even include a call to action if so inclined (a simple invite to visit your company website will do).

Make sure you add contact information for the person responsible for taking calls, questions, and requests for information. This is typically someone in marketing or public relations, but if you don’t have an individual in either role, your contact can be anyone willing and able to answer questions regarding the press release.

Now, Time to Get Noticed!

Now that you have written great content, it’s time to distribute your press release. You can do this by using an online press release service or by sending it to journalists and local news outlets. You should also post your press release on your company website and your own social media outlets. Use this to promote the information as well as your website to gain additional interest and engagement. Getting your press release in front of the right eyes is going to promote your business, introduce what you do to new people, and let people know why they should care about what you have to offer. Get the best industry tips and tricks for distributing your press release.

Reading about best practices is nice. Practicing them is even nicer.

About the author

Director, Marketing + Operations

Joleen locks down the big picture, then sweats the details, including the creative parts. A [...]