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How to write a press release [with free template]
Author : Stephanie Joy Hubbard
Posted : 26 / 02 / 21
If you’re looking for a comprehensive guide to writing a press release, our guest author Stephanie Joy Hubbard has got you covered.
So, you’ve got some news you want to share with the world. One way to make sure your news is communicated to a wide and relevant audience is to write and strategically distribute a press release. A press release allows you to send the key information about your story to different press contacts – like journalists, news sites and influencers – so they can publish it.
This article will explain what a press release is, how to write one, rules for best practice and tips on how to get maximum success from your press releases.
Use the contents links below to jump to the section you need most, make your way through methodically from start to finish, or bookmark this page for next time you need it.
A press release is a written document designed for press outlets and journalists, literally for you to release information to the press. They’re also sometimes referred to as news releases.
Press releases are generally considered to be part of a PR (public relations) strategy, workstream or campaign. That’s because they can help you to build a public profile for your brand or business and help you get positive exposure in the media.
A great press release should clearly and concisely lay out the information of your news or story so that journalists have everything they need to create an article. But there’s an art to laying out the information so it is intriguing and engaging enough for journalists to want to write about it. In this article, we’ll explore best practices for doing just that.
The purpose of writing a press release is to get articles or news stories about you or your company into target publications, whether those are online or offline. And the aim in doing this is to build and maintain your reputation as a business. This coverage can also boost your business’s results, by making more people aware of your offering and (potentially) including links back to your website.
And if you’re wondering whether press releases are now outdated, dull and formulaic, think again. Let yourself be inspired. Press releases are an opportunity to tell a story. A good story is something that captures the heart and entertains the mind. If you can create an imagination-capturing story, you have something powerful that can make you memorable. It can help you to stand out against your competition and spread the word about the value you can offer your audience.
You can write a press release about absolutely anything, as long as it’s new news.
For example, in a business context, you might want to issue a press release if:
Before you start, answer these three questions:
It is important that any release you send out contains genuinely newsworthy content. There are five main things that make a story attention-grabbing for a reader:
Sometimes, the news you want to communicate will be quite straightforward and you can use a similarly straightforward hook for your press release.
For example, you’ve brought in a new member of the board, so your angle (and headline) can be as simple as ‘Joe Bloggs joins the [business name] board’.
That’s fine for certain industry-specific publications whose main stories are articles announcing these sorts of business changes.
But it’s worth thinking about different angles you could use in order to grab attention, get your press release published in more places and get more readers.
A great example of creating a compelling hook for an understated story is this one from PR firm Tuesday Media. They had a client called RedHouse Originals – a small, independent art gallery in Harrogate, North Yorkshire. The gallery simply wanted to announce they were hosting a new show which included some photographs by Andy Warhol.
Rather than pitch a story that led with ‘Local gallery holds Andy Warhol show’, Tuesday Media’s angle was to send out images of one of the art pieces showing Warhol turning the camera on himself. Their hook? These images revealed Andy Warhol creating his own (ahead-of-its-time) version of Instagram.
By taking this approach, the gallery got national cultural exposure and coverage, rather than just local-news press. Journalists loved this angle because of how it captured the imagination of a wide audience. And ultimately, the gallery got increased interest in their show.
Journalists want new information. They won’t use anything boring, clichéd or that’s been seen before.
What new data, thinking or opinion are you bringing to the reader’s attention? For example, perhaps you have a fresh insight, an interesting perspective or some new data from a survey or a piece of original research.
Remember you’re writing for a journalist. You absolutely need to have the final audience in mind, but everything you write in the release should be interesting and useful for a journalist. They’ll be looking for a good story written in a clear and concise way, with any attachments they might need. They need you to make their job as easy as possible.
Your release doesn’t need to be (and shouldn’t be) the finished article, but it needs to include all the important elements of the story in an engaging way.
When writing a press release, make sure to do the following:
Write a catchy but clear headline
Your headline is key to the overall success of the press release. You’ll be including it in the subject line of the email you send to the journalists you’re targeting, meaning it’s the first thing they’ll see in their email inbox. It will determine whether or not they even open the email.
A journalist will write their own headline for the article they create based on your press release – they will rarely use the copy you’ve written verbatim. So to make sure they can see the potential in your press release, make sure the headline is catchy and expresses the main point or hook of the story in direct, simple English.
Keep it to around 100–110 characters long and resist trying to come up with a pun or literary reference. Remember: clear always beats clever.
Write in the third person
Any article based on your press release will be written in the third person. So write your press release in the third person too to make it easy for journalists to edit.
For example, write ‘Haysto has partnered with Finance Advice Group,’ rather than the first person version: ‘We’ve partnered with the Finance Advice Group.’
State whether the release is for immediate release or not
Sometimes you’ll be happy for the story to be published as soon as possible, but other times you may want to delay the release. Always indicate to the journalist whether they can publish straight away or not at the very top of the press release.
If the story can’t be published yet, it’s known as ‘sharing under embargo’. This means you’re sharing information before the official announcement date. Always state whether you’re sharing under embargo or if it’s ‘for immediate release’.
Summarise your headline
The first paragraph of your press release should be an expansion of your headline. For example, say your headline is:
‘A NEW PARTNERSHIP TO SHAKE UP THE MORTGAGE WORLD’
Then your first paragraph should support that headline and give more information. For example:
‘Online mortgage platform Haysto has announced today an alliance with Finance Advice Group, one of the UK’s largest specialist mortgage broker networks, with over 100 brokers nationally. Their joint mission is to make mortgages possible for more people who have the odds stacked against them – those with bad credit, who are self-employed or who have a complex financial situation.’
Keep it short and sweet
A length of 400–600 words is perfect for a press release. Always put the most important information in the first 100 words.
If you’re disciplined about keeping your release short, you’ll avoid the mistake of trying to squeeze too much information or waffle in there. And remember: any press release should only cover ONE story.
Here’s how to make sure you have the right elements, in the right order.
Use the inverted pyramid model
Mirror how journalists write by using the inverted pyramid model. This makes it very easy for them to see the most important aspects of the story up front.
The inverted pyramid means you lead with the key information in the title and first paragraph, then follow that with more paragraphs on the detail of the story.
Use an engaging format
Improve the flow of the press release and lead the eye down the page by including formatting like bold, bullets and section headers.
Include quotes at the end
It’s a great idea to lend real voices to your story by including quotes. These should come at the end of the release, before your boilerplate (more on this below) and any other information for editors.
Indicate the end of the release
After the boilerplate and any other information, make it very clear where the release ends by including the word ‘END’ in capital letters.
Here’s an example of how a well-structured press release looks:
Make sure to include the following to ensure you’ve covered everything a journalist will need.
A boilerplate is any text that can be copied and pasted into a new context. This is useful for various branding situations, so it’s a good idea to have specific text about your business ready to send to journalists or PR people.
In a press release context, your boilerplate should explain what your business is and what it does. Start your boilerplate with ‘About [company name]’.
You’ll probably need various boilerplates for different situations. Different people will ask for different information from you, so have different variants ready to go. For example, you could write a long version (a few paragraphs), a shorter version (one paragraph) and a shortest version (one sentence). Each version should clearly communicate your proposition and value.
For press releases, a boilerplate needs to communicate:
Here’s an example of a boilerplate from a press release for mortgage brand Haysto:
Haysto is an online mortgage platform that makes mortgages possible for people who struggle to get one. They specialise in bad credit, self-employed and complex mortgages. Dealing with the difficult cases that others shy away from is literally all they do.
The boilerplate should always come after the main copy of the press release. If you mention multiple companies in the release – for example, if you’re announcing a new partnership – include a boilerplate for all companies mentioned.
It’s a great idea to include quotes from key people in the story. Often journalists will ask for a quote if you don’t include one, so it’s best to include one or two in the first place.
The best person to quote is the one who is most relevant to comment. For example, if the press release is about the launch of a new brand, the founder or co-founders are the best option.
Avoid using quotes that are too bland or salesy and that don’t add to the story. Instead, use the quote to offer new information that hasn’t yet been covered in the main press release copy. For example, the quote could:
Journalists rarely post a story without an image or some kind of visual asset. If you don’t attach a visual, they’ll probably either be put off or reply asking for one. Make it quick and easy for them and always attach at least one image option in the first place.
You can attach images, videos, logo files and photos of people mentioned in the release. If your press release includes the details of a case study involving real people, you should attach high-quality, clear photos of the people involved. It’s important to make sure any images you send are high resolution.
A high-resolution image is one where the clarity of the image is good and it’s therefore fit for physical as well as digital publishing. ‘High resolution’ means the image has a high pixel dimension, known as pixels-per-inch (PPI). The higher the pixel count, the higher quality image you have. If your image has a pixel count of over 300 PPI, it’s good to use for publishing.
Sometimes, a publication will want to send out a photographer to capture their own images (and don’t resist this if they do), but it’s always a good idea to include some up front.
Always include relevant links. A journalist might not include them, but it’s always worth giving it a go to get a link back to your site, video or social media. Three separate links to three separate pieces of content per press release is the maximum amount you should include, but don’t duplicate links.
Whether or not a journalist will include links in the published article will vary depending on the publication they write for. Some have a no-links rule, while others will ask for payment to include links.
Even if you don’t manage to get any links into the final article, brand mentions still positively affect your website’s domain authority and are generally a good thing for your visibility in search engine results pages (like Google, Bing or Ecosia).
How you email your press release is just as important as the content of the release. Journalists appreciate it if you show you’re considerate of their time.
It’s helpful to think of emailing a press release as a pitch rather than just an email – you’re literally pitching your story to someone who has the power to pick it up or ignore you.
Remember you’re competing for attention in the journalist’s busy inbox, and you have a limited opportunity to pique their interest enough that they open your email.
Make sure you follow these rules every time you send a release:
Include ‘Pitch’ in the email subject title
Start the email subject title with ‘Pitch’ followed by the headline of the press release. Remember that if the title is long, only the first few words will be visible, so edit down your press release title and choose these words very carefully.
Open with a direct question
Open your email with a direct question: ‘Are you interested in … [topic of the press release]?’
Avoid being over-familiar
Avoid being too familiar in your email if you don’t have a familiar relationship with the journalist. A simple ‘I hope you’re well’ is polite, but don’t ask them about their weekend or tell them about yours. They’re busy, and just want to know what you’re pitching.
Copy and paste
Copy and paste the press release into the email – don’t attach the press release. Make it as easy for the journalist as possible to scan the information and make a decision as to whether or not they’re interested. Don’t make them work hard to understand or have to open links to learn more.
Include all information in the body of the email and attach all assets
Include a ‘Notes to editor’ section where you can put the boilerplate, link to assets (such as videos, logos, photos) or any further details.
If the press release includes any research, survey data or claims, you should add a section called ‘About the research’ and include the details on who collected the research and how.
Here’s an example of how to pitch to a journalist over email:
Hey [journalist name]
I hope you’re well.
Are you interested in this release about [short summary of the release]?
Let me know if you need any other information.
[paste full press release here]
Always chase up after a few days if you haven’t heard anything back with a short and sweet (and polite) reminder.
Writing a compelling and attention-grabbing press release is only part of the story! Here are some strategic tips to boost your chances of success.
Tip 1: Research journalists
Research the individual journalists you want to approach. Make a few notes on how they write – the techniques and the style they use. Make tweaks to your release to mirror each journalist so it’s easy for them to pick up pieces of your copy and use them in their article.
Journalists are unlikely to cover a story outside their usual domain. For example, if you email an arts and culture journalist with a press release about IT, they won’t pick it up. Be targeted when you compile a list of potential journalists – only send your press release to relevant people.
Tip 2: WHEN you send your release really matters
The time and day you send out a press release matters hugely. Journalists are busy and have very busy inboxes.
Mondays are often the busiest and most hectic day of the week. So avoid sending a press release on Friday afternoons or on Monday mornings. The best time to send out new press releases are Tuesday to Thursday mornings at odd times – for example, 9.47am rather than 9.00am.
Tip 3: Boost the SEO impact
If SEO and link-building is a factor you’re considering, publish the press release on your site first. If you do that, you’ll be the source of the information in Google’s eyes and you’ll benefit from any backlinks you get from publications.
However, make sure the press release is edited appropriately for your site and not the exact same copy you use in the press release. Turn it into a blog post in your company’s tone of voice and make sure it appeals to your audience.
Feeling inspired? Download our press release template (as a Word or Google Doc) and keep it handy for when you’re ready to create your own. Good luck!
If you (or your team) want to go even more in-depth on the art of creating compelling press releases, check out our training: we run courses both for individuals to join and as bespoke training for in-house teams.
Image credit: GaudiLab / Shutterstock
Stephanie is a senior content consultant at digital strategy agency Brilliant Noise, where she helps clients with all areas of their digital content – from social media and influencers to big creative campaigns. Her background is in social media and marketing, having previously been head of marketing for fashion brand American Apparel, as well as working for start-up social media app HeyHub.
Stephanie shares her expertise in making an impact online as a guest author on the Emphasis blog.
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