Press Release 101: A Beginner's Guide to Writing a Press Release
If you're looking for an effective way to announce news about your business, being able to write a press release is an essential skill. You don’t need a degree in communications to successfully compose and distribute a release, but there is a process you should follow to effectively plan, write, and distribute your news.
Here are a few tips to help you get started:
Before drafting your press release, you should ask yourself if the announcement is newsworthy and whether anyone outside of your organization is interested in learning the news shared. If you're not sure whether your story is enough to catch a reporter or customer’s attention, search for other company's or agent’s news in publications that you would like coverage in to get a feel for the kind of stories they typically publish.
Press releases are generally written to be concise (400 words is recommend) and similar to news articles, written with the "five w’s" (who, what, where, why and when) format. Getting your target audience to read the press release is important, so the first sentence must grab their attention and hold it throughout the piece. Your first line should be a summary of the story (in no more than approximately 15-20 words) and read like the opening of a news story.
If the reader, whether that be a journalist or future customer, doesn’t immediately understand what your story is about, they won’t bother to read the entire press release and will move on to the next story. Below are a few things to keep in mind when writing your press release.
- Make sure your quotes provide insight and opinion and sound like a real person said them.
- Spell out all acronyms the first time referenced, followed by the acronym in parentheses. It is then appropriate to use the acronym throughout the rest of the release.
- Simple words are best. Do not assume your audience understands industry jargon or technical language.
- Sub-headings and bullet points can be useful to make information easy to digest, particularly if you're including figures or statistics.
- Double check spelling, grammar and punctuation.
First and foremost, post your press release onto your company’s website, share via all social media channels and distribute via email to employees and customers. If the press release needs to be reached beyond your network, consider using a free distribution site for statewide or national reporters to find your story, then, use a free web-tracking tool like Google Analytics to gather results.
To get the press release in front of a reporter most inclined to publish the story, you may want to do the following.
Research the outlet
- Determine the most appropriate contact at the outlet to send your story to by reading at least three of their latest stories. This will help to avoid contacting a reporter covering a different topic than what you are offering.
- Reporters receive hundreds of emails a day, so labeling emails with "press release" or "story idea" in the subject line is a must.
- Some reporters prefer to be contacted via social medias sites like Twitter. Start following reporters you would like to contact and try sending them a direct message to pitch your story.
Revise the release for different media outlets you target.
- Local newspapers want a story with local interest.
- Trade publications want more details.
- Radio submissions should be short and clever.
- TV coverage requires strong and interesting visuals.
Press releases are excellent branding and credibility tools that are a great way to get the word out about your company or service. If a release is engaging enough, it can also generate social sharing, traffic to your website and gain a reporter’s interest. By integrating these tips into your strategy, you can help ensure that you’re maximizing the impact of your release and reaching the right audience.