When to Write a Press ReleasePress releases are meant to help news services get relevant news and information to their subscribers in a timely manner. Before sending a press release to a news outlet, determine whether or not the news is truly relevant to its recipients. Make sure the news is still current. If it took place quite a while ago, or will not be happening soon, the release will be ignored.
A press release is an effective way to communicate a wide range of topics including:
- Launching a new product or service
- Recognizing key employee achievements
- Redesigning a website
- Moving your busines
- Participating in an event
- Establishing a new partnership
- Sharing research results
- Receiving an award
A press release can also be used to generate a feature story. Reporters are more likely to consider a story idea if they first receive a press release. However, because journalists receive so many requests for coverage, to be successful the release needs to:
- Have an eye-catching headline
- Contain the who, what, when, where and why of the story, and
- Be error-free and attractive
Eye-Catching HeadlinesYour headline, should be an abbreviated version of the press release’s key point. Just as newspaper headlines are meant to grab readers, the headline of a press release also needs to be attention-getting.
The headline is typically in bold type and uses a larger font size than the body copy. Conventional press release headlines use the present tense and exclude articles such as “a” and “the”.
A common way to create the headline is to use several of the keywords from the body copy to create a relevant and interesting title.
Body Copy and the 5 “W’s”The press release should be written just like you want it to appear in the news story. Reporters are very busy and don’t have time to research your company’s information, so typically what you write is what will be in the journalist’s version of your event.
Start with the date and city in which the press release originates. The first sentence should grab the reader’s attention and say precisely what the release is about. The body copy should be brief. The first paragraph should summarize the press release, and the following paragraphs should support it.
Communicate the 5 “W’s” very clearly. The who, what, when, where, and why should tell the reader everything they need to know:
- Who is this about?
- What is the actual news?
- When does this event happen?
- Where does this take place?
- Why is this news?
Once you have written the basic information, go back and fill in with more detail. The more newsworthy you make the press release copy, the better its chance is to be used.
Attractive and Error-FreeNews services and reporters get lots of press releases everyday. Make sure yours stands out by keeping it error-free with a professional appearance.
Traditional hard copy press releases that are mailed should be on nice paper similar to your letterhead. Using letterhead is not recommended, but if you have second sheets with only your logo on them, they can be used.
When an editor looks at your story, she is first considering if it is appropriate for her audience, and then if it’s professional. Make sure you have correct spelling, good grammar, use nice paper, and that major points are clearly covered. Reporters and editors will appreciate the fact that you’ve helped make them look better.
The Basic StructureFinally, it’s important to make sure everything in the release is organized correctly.
- FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: should go at the top of the page, on the left margin in all caps. If it is not for immediate release, the date you would like it to be published should be clearly stated in the same location.
- The headline: usually in bold, should be centered below that. If you plan to use a subhead or tagline, put it in italics right below the headline.
- First paragraph: this is where the most important information must be located. Make sure to include all the key points here.
- Second and third paragraphs: this additional information should include the 5 “W’s”. This is also a good place to include quotes.
- Boilerplate: place the information about your company underneath the body of your release. Describe your company or organization with five or six sentences. This is the same type of introductory information found in your company’s brochure or website.
- Contact information: if your press release is newsworthy, reporters may like to contact some of the key individuals in your organization for more information. This section should contain a contact person’s name, the company name and address, phone, fax, email and website addresses.
- Other media: mention other ways to receive more information such as requesting a brochure, or a link to your website, Facebook page, LinkedIn, or blog.