The purpose of a press release is to inform the world of your news and if you’re lucky a journalist or news publication will pick up your story and turn it into a news item for a magazine, newspaper, or online publication — giving you and your business greater exposure and credibility.
Publicity is different from traditional advertising in that it builds credibility because it is a third party that is distributing the information. With advertising the message is totally controlled by the company (how long it runs, what is said, what it looks like), but because people know that it is a paid advertisement they may be skeptical of the claims being made. The general population is more likely to trust a third party source such as reviewer, columnist, or reporter – just look at how popular Consumer Reports is.
To create a press release that catches the attention of a journalist here are some basic tips you should follow when writing your press release.
1. Use the correct format.
If you want your release to be taken seriously it needs to be correctly formatted, and easy to read. Editors receive tons of correspondence and often make publishing decisions at just a glance. There are various acceptable ways to format your press release, but here are some pointers based on what I’ve learned and had success with.
Be sure to carry your businesses brand through to your release. Include your logo, tagline, and other identifying information. Always be sure to include contact information so media can follow up. Also, be sure to include the date at the top. This allows editors to easily see when the information was released, confirming that it’s timely.
2. Grab their attention.
Make sure you have a strong, attention-grabbing headline. It should be direct, descriptive and one line or less. At the beginning of your release, be sure to include the dateline. This tells the media the city and state where the release is originating from, or where your company is physically located. This is especially important for regional publications or if you are announcing an event. If you have questions about formatting the dateline, take a look at the Associated Press Stylebook. It is the go-to guide for the press’ AP writing style.
3. Start strong.
Next is the lead and body of your press release. The lead, or first sentence, is just as crucial as the headline.
It should be packed with information and answer most, if not all, of the 5 Ws. It should leave your reader wanting more.
Journalism writing is short and to the point. Feature stories allow a little room for creativity and humor, however, news stories are always concise and without fluff. Your release should reflect that. Keep it short; one page is usually more than enough.
Just be sure to answer the who, what, where, when, why and how. You can include quotations from business associates or satisfied customers to help illustrate your point. Double check and be sure you haven’t left anything out.
4. Make connecting easy.
It’s usually good to end with your company’s boilerplate statement. Every company should have a general boilerplate statement that describes the company. A few sentences that summarize the company’s history and offerings can go along way if you use it consistently.
Again, be sure to include your contact information for follow-up. When sending your release to media representatives, it is usually best to copy and paste it into the message of an e-mail. Most editors will not open attachments from unknown sources.
Once you have your press release written it’s time to submit it to the various press release distribution sites. PR Web is probably the most popular site however it is slightly expensive, around $80 for a standard press release. And one thing you need to remember with PR is that when you send out a press release it may or may not be picked up by a journalist. I would suggest sending your release out to all of your local news avenues (newspapers and news stations) and many of the free sites, then if you have the money send it out of PR Web too.
Related Content: A BIG List of Sites Women Entrepreneurs Can Score Media Exposure
Press release writing can be challenging, but it is definitely possible for business owners to do on their own if they’re low on cash. However, if you feel it is too daunting of a task for you to handle alone, there are a multitude of businesses that would be willing to help.
Good article Dawn & good comment Malinda. I have written many releases for myself and for my clients. I’d like to add: Make sure that the release is sent in the form that it is requested in. For example: If a newspaper says to mail it or fax it, don’t e-mail it. If posting online, make sure you adhere to the guidelines of the site. For instance, if your release reads like an advertisement, PR Web’s editors will kick it back. Make sure you have a newsworthy story to tell, which usually means a milestone or event that can be tied to a nearby calendar date. Again, great pointers. Holly, Glad to see you & Dawn working together :)
Thanks for posting. Being a news photographer, I’ve dealt with many press releases. It’s always hard to believe how much critical event information is left out – frustrating when you’re trying to cover the event.
Always include the full address of the event location, entrance, parking, room number… All the details are critical for photographers & reporters rushing from 1 job to the next.
A cell phone to reach the person who know the most or is in charge of the event is also critical. Designate that contact person & make sure they’re reachable.
If your event includes a luncheon or the like, be sure to include a timeline for media folks who only have 10 minutes to spend. That way they can at least come when you’re presenting the award not serving the salad, if you know what i mean. Lettuce is not that interesting.
Sorry for any misspellings from my iphone.
Remember. Be thorough. Include ALL contact info. And best of luck for your next release.
Always have someone unfamiliar with rhe event or story read through the release before sending. Answer all their questions before it goes out.