We live in a time where we are bombarded with all types of content, across different channels and through various devices. This content chaos has created a higher demand for PR professionals and communicators to develop trustworthy, valuable, and exciting content to break through the noise. Media and consumers consider press releases to be a trusted source of data and information. So just by choosing a press release as your format, you will add credibility to the information that you want to share. However, it is essential to think about the bigger picture and oversee all aspects when writing and publishing a press release to maximize impact and performance.
This article will give you step-by-step guidance on how to write an engaging and exciting press release to maximize performance and business impact.
What is a Press Release?
Let us start from the beginning – what is a press release? Simply described: It is an article that summarizes your news in a short and concise format. Press releases that are well-written contain both a sharp news angle and the company’s message. Historically the press release goes way back, the first one being dated October 26th, 1906 by Ivy Lee who reported about a railroad accident involving the death of fifty people on the Pennsylvania Railroad in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Lee’s way of writing cut to the chase and led to the New York Times publishing his exact statement and observations. Today, over 100 years after Lee’s article initially was published, press releases still are an essential part of the communication strategy to convey your message to media, customers, and other target groups.
A lot has changed since 1906 though and several rules have been formed that are meant to be followed for an article to fit the frame of a press release. It is safe to say that it can be challenging to write a press release in order to receive maximum impact, and this article will hopefully clarify some of the most important factors. First, we will look into what different kinds of press releases there are.
What kind of Press Releases & formats are there?
Even if the actual writing is a challenge itself you might find yourself struggling before that while wondering what kind of news is worth formatting as a press release. Here are some of the most common themes when it comes to press releases.
This one might be considered a given, however, there are several reasons why new partnerships are considered press release-worthy material. Not only does it show that your business is progressing, but it also shows that another company sees you as a valuable partner worth being associated with. If you want to write this type of release well, be sure to include a summary of each company, the rationale behind the partnership, the beneficiaries, and any other pertinent information for both present and future stakeholders.
New Product Launches
A press release such as a product launch is a useful way to spread the word about the new solutions your organization offers to consumers and shed a light on how you are bringing value by launching it. New services and products are always worth creating a buzz around. However, ensure that you offer the reader a link to the site where the product is sold. By linking to one or two of your company’s keywords, you can drive traffic back to the website, but keep it on a reasonable level. As a reader, you do not want every other word to be blue-penciled. Double-check several times to make sure the URL link is correct and live before sending out the press release – it shouldn’t fall on such a simple mistake.
How to write for an event
If you are hosting an event, a press release will make sure that more people will attend and at the same time show that you are dedicated to staying updated within your business area. Networking and being informed are key factors when it comes to building trustworthy relations. Do not forget to add what the event is about, the pricing, and when and where it will be held.
A press release serves as the opening statement for an executive’s duty as the public face of the organization. Along with a picture and other important information, it might also contain biographical information to prove their authenticity. This kind of information is great from an Employer Branding perspective.
It is acceptable to boast about business excellence. Press announcements regarding honors and achievements help to establish your company as an authority in your field. Such a news release provides information on the organization and the reasons for the award, as well as facts on the prize and the event (if applicable). Another thing that will make sure to lift the article is if someone, preferably a person that is higher up in the business hierarchy, gives their comment on the achievement.
For any company, rebranding may be challenging and occasionally cause confusion and awkwardness. A press statement outlining the branding with information on what is changing, the rationale for the change, the dates the changes take effect, and quotes from the leadership team can help the transition go more smoothly.
Send out a grand opening news release to announce any new office openings, office moves, or first-time openings. Declare the time and place of the grand opening, the participants, the celebration plans, and the rationale for the relocation (if applicable).
Press release for mergers and Acquisitions
Organizational changes are enough to warrant a press release, especially to inform current and future stakeholders of the company’s growth and development. To announce an acquisition or merger, include details of all relevant organizations, information about the merger or acquisition, and a quote from the leadership team.
Before you start: Relevance-test your news
When communicating, you must always think about the meaning and purpose of the information you want to share. So, in terms of the message in your press release, you have to ask yourself: Is this valuable to others?
A few things to consider:
- Timing – is your news up to date? What is the world talking about right now?
- Identification – can the audience identify with your story?
- Significance – is the content interesting to the audience?
- Worth reading – is the content unique, inspiring, or educational?
Extra tip: Keeping track of hot topics, news, and trends related to your industry is beneficial when evaluating the relevance of your content. Media monitoring makes it easy for you to keep track of what is written about your brand, your competitors, and your industry – and to map trends over time. The next step is to make sure you reach your audience. You have something of value to tell, but how do you maximize the impact?
Your existing network
You may have a contact list with customers, media personalities, journalists, and other stakeholders that you have collected yourself. These contacts are (of course) valuable for you to share your information with since they have shown interest in your previous content. Perhaps you have organized your contacts according to interests, earlier interaction, engagement, and/or rewrites. Evaluate your contacts and add those to your audience that you think would see value in your upcoming press release.
New contact networks
Different publishing platforms allow you to broaden your reach by offering access to their contact database. Depending on where you are publishing, you can add those new contacts to your audience and get a broader reach with your press release.
Optimize SEO to reach more people
In addition to exciting content and contact lists, you need to think about search engine optimization. Search engines are a great way to reach those people who are actually searching for similar information. Think about which keywords to use and review the readability of your text so that the algorithms can read your content. Of course, SEO is more complex than that but, with the assumption that your business has a strong domain, overseeing keywords and readability is a good start.
How to write a press release?
Think through what is to be conveyed and how the recipients of the press release should feel when they read it. Let these insights inform the way the memo is written. Aim to structure the text so that it is clear and easy to read. Make clear divisions if several things are to be communicated in the same text. Keep the body text objective and use quotes to “sell the product” or express thoughts and hopes regarding the news.
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Angle and purpose
Think about what you want to convey, and focus on a single news item. It is easy to get confused if you want to say a lot of different things. If you have more than one news story, write several different press releases. Try to answer the questions of what, where, who, why, when, and how? Your story needs to be timely and relevant. So consider the time of year, the audience, and the typical content of the publication, as well as whether you are looking to share your story on a local, national or international level.
The four most common objectives of most press releases are to disseminate:
- News items: a new study, a new initiative, a publication, etc.
- Opinions: a reaction to a current issue or a desire to get a new debate onto the agenda.
- Knowledge: factual knowledge you possess on a specific topic that is relevant to the media; draw attention to it and become a source for ongoing reporting.
- Media briefs: point to the future that something is on the way, which prepares the groundwork for when you release the big news about a product, initiative, publication, etc. You might not get any media coverage, but you invest time in prepping the journalists.
There are certainly other types of objectives a press release can fulfill. The idea here is to define the purpose of your news release. Once you have done that, you will find it easier to communicate your story and get it out. You will also find it simpler to understand who you are targeting and what particular goal you would like to achieve.
Know your target audience
Your particular media outlet is usually the target group. But is it Heat Magazine or The Guardian? There is a journalist whose job it is to find stories that fit their particular audience and their interests. You need to understand the target group of each media outlet before you send the journalist anything.
For this, you have to do some basic, practical fieldwork: read the papers, listen to the radio, watch TV, and browse a few websites. Not only will you get a real overview of what a particular media organization is interested in, but you will also be able to see the individual journalist’s area of expertise. You don’t need to do this work before every single press release, but you should do it regularly. Agendas change quickly, and so do staff members.
Adapting a press release to each media outlet is not always necessary, though. A press release can easily encompass several media interests and that of their readers, viewers, and listeners. But you will be in a better position if you know where your press release will strike a broader audience, where it may slightly miss the mark, and where and how it will gain mass to more niche media coverage.
Spin the news
The niche in which your news piece falls is a fundamental factor to bear in mind when writing and pitching your story. While breaking news about Kim Kardashian’s wedding will be relevant to Heat magazine, it is not a feature that The Guardian would usually cover. But if you can find an angle that addresses a broader niche, you will achieve greater reach for your story. As the author of your press release, your job is to ensure your communication is timely and relevant and that it will fly. Understanding the different components of what makes a piece newsworthy is thus essential to be able to get your story published.
Headline and intro
The preamble is there to summarize the content of your text. It should be written in bold and is usually a few sentences long, about two or four lines. Sometimes it is a good idea to start with the preamble, to get the main points across. Other times it is easier to write the preamble afterward – when you have a finished text to summarize. This is applicable when it comes to the headline as well. It is a lot easier to set a headline after you are done with the article. Because, how are you supposed to know what the headline is before the article is done? The headline should consist of a maximum of 40 characters and contain the core of the news. The headline will also be the subject line for those who receive the press release via email. Avoid long words, as well as the words “press release”.
The classic components of the press release
Now that we have covered the purpose and audience, it is time to start with the creation of your press release. Look at your business and the news from an outside perspective, and never write “we” but “they”. Do not use exclamation marks or judgmental and euphemistic descriptions, try to be as neutral as possible. Also, keep the reader in mind, and write simply and straightforwardly, avoid complicated technical terms
Here are a few other pointers to keep in mind when writing your press release. Make sure that the article is:
Short and interesting
The average time spent reading a press release is 3 minutes and 39 seconds. Make sure that your press release captures the recipient’s interest, but keep it short and sweet.
Easy to republish
45 percent of all journalists consider time to be their biggest frustration. Make it simple and write your text in a way that makes it easy for a journalist to edit and republish.
A press release needs to make the reader curious to continue reading, and a disorganized one will have the opposite effect. When writing, keep these guidelines in mind:
- Be clear about who the sender is. Make sure that the company name is visible in the email and the subject line, as well as in the actual press release.
- Use interesting headlines. The subject line and introduction will be the first thing the recipient sees. Make sure it captures interest and the desire to read more.
- Use subheadings. Long texts are difficult to read. Make sure to structure your press release, so that it is easy to follow your argument.
- Source criticism. Always make sure to double-check your facts and sources. Why not triple-check… just to be sure?
- CTA. Always link to related content to inspire further interest.
- Extra spice? Use quotes to express feelings and opinions.
Last but not least: Analyze and optimize
Do not think that once you hit “publish”, the work is done. No, no. This is when the fun begins. At this point it is time to shift focus and look at what happens with your press release once you have published it.
Why is this important? Because the data can offer you insights on:
- How your press release is performing
- How your audience is responding
- The overall impact
Did your press release get the spread you expected? Did you reach your target audience? With the help of data and analysis tools, you can see the traffic and engagementof your press release and possible mentions in other media and/or by other people. These insights can give valuable information on how your press release has performed.
Analyze clicks, shares, and downloads
Depending on how you have chosen to distribute your press release, you can evaluate opened emails, clicks on links, shares, and downloads of related material. These insights are a great way to assess the engagement among those reached by your news.
Draw conclusions from your insights
Do not stop at just evaluating and analyzing. Use the insights that you received from your press release and draw lessons on how to work in the future. How can you develop your communication to reach even more people, be even more relevant, and build stronger relations with your audience?
If your goal is that your press release will get republished by the media it is essential that you add a relevant picture. Make sure you have good high-resolution images or videos for your news story so that journalists have all the material they need to make a full article. The thumb rule is that images to be used in newspapers or on the web should be around 1 MB, for print magazines they should be over 3 MB. Also: direct journalists to where they can access these images, link to the press room on the website, contact details of the press officer, or similar.
CTA: The perfect way to end a press release
A call-to-action (CTA) is used to entice a reader to take the desired action that meets the primary goal of the content or channel in question. Examples of CTAs are “Buy Now” buttons in web shops or “Learn More” links in articles or newsletters. In a digital marketing context, they are often called “call-to-action” buttons because they are designed to stand out from other content. The button is designed to be clearly visible and is often accompanied by informational text designed to grab the reader’s attention and activate them.
There should always be a boilerplate at the end, a section of standard text about what your organization does, with facts and figures on the size, number of employees, sector, etc. You should include your standard boilerplate in all press releases and ensure it’s consistent. If you’re a part of an international organization, your boilerplate should be available in local languages. Ultimately, the journalist should be able to copy your boilerplate directly. If journalists translate your boilerplate, they may do a poor job of it.
Examples of press releases
Sometimes it is easier to grasp things if you are given a concrete example so let us have a look at a well-written press release by Microsoft.
The first thing that stands out in this press release is the caption. It tells a full story without being too long. It covers who is involved (Microsoft and Activision), what is going on (an accession), and why it matters (to bring the joy and community of gaming to everyone).
Throughout the press release, you get quotations from leaders in both associations, helping explain the benefit of this accession and how it will move the assiduity forward.
Toward the bottom of the press release, you get a fresh environment girding each company’s request share and how this accession will impact the assiduity.
Another example of a well-written press release is this one by the nationwide retail chain Hobby Lobby. The company wrote that it had increased the minimum pay for full-time workers at all of its sites to $17 an hour. A company implementing its own minimum wage raise across its 900 outlets is a newsworthy development given the continuing discussions about the minimum wage. This information may aid in attracting and keeping more employees in addition to enhancing the company’s brand image.
The article is straightforward, easy to read, and needless to say it has a sharp news angle.
Hopefully, these pointers will be of help next time you find yourself writing a press release. Remember that it is difficult to predict the media attention a press release will receive. In some cases, the impact will be widespread; perhaps because the subject matter falls within the coverage of the broader news media or because it links to current events and world factors. In other cases, the story is primarily a concern of the relevant trade press. Sometimes there is no media coverage at all. That is why it is important to spend a little extra time crafting a good press release. Gaining media attention brings a high level of credibility that cannot be bought with advertising.