A press release is a form of communication used by organisations to increase knowledge and public awareness, as well as contributing to its positive perception externally.
Press releases are used in both b2b PR and b2c PR to announce newsworthy company updates, such as new products, staff or branding changes. You may choose to announce these updates on social media, but press releases reach a different audience. This is because the announcement is published by an external publication – not directly linked to the organisation – and so the perception is that it has been written from a completely neutral point of view.
From an organisational standpoint, writing a press release should ensure that the information you are sharing is expressed correctly, and though it may be aimed at portraying the organisation in its most positive light, it should appear direct and unbiased – largely stating the facts rather than expressing opinions. Journalists are then able to utilise press releases with little or no editing, when creating articles for print and online publications.
In this guide, we'll outline how to write a press release that gets the attention it deserves, as well as our recommended practices to follow.
The most vital aspect of producing a successful press release is its newsworthiness. It has to have a strong angle that interests the journalist or editor of the publication being targeted and, ultimately the readers, if and when it is published.
A successful press release can sometimes piggy-back on recent news or societal topics; for a recent example, how a business might have adapted the way it operates in order to address the challenges of the COVID pandemic.
A good press release should include the following elements:
Adding a logo at the top of a press release brings immediate attention to the company involved and it allows the journalist to know who is contacting them.
If you don't have a logo, you can alternatively include the name of the company in its place.
The headline is arguably the most important aspect of a press release. It will be the first part of the release that anyone will read, so it has to be attention-grabbing.
You must ensure that it is concise, interesting, and conveys the intended message clearly. Make sure your audience understands what the narrative is. In other words, you should answer the question: "why should anyone care about what I have to say?".
Before your release gets to be seen by the public, it will first have to gain the interest of the targeted publication’s editor. The journalist you send the release to will be considering whether their readers will be interested in what you have to say, and whether it’s more interesting than the many other releases they may have been sent that day.
All publication’s headlines are created to pique the interest of the reader. A good press release headline must first convince the journalist to read the story before it will even get a chance to get across to any other audience. Journalists are astute, often with many years experience behind them, and any attempt to fool them with a clickbait headline, that does not really tell the truth of the story, will be recognised.
A subtitle provides additional information about your press release and is used as a hook to further pique the readers' interest and entice them to read the rest of your story. It should be brief and no more than 10-20 words.
Here is an example:
Headline: ‘Company A’ unveils exciting growth plans for 2022
Subtitle: Its plans include a move to bigger premises, an investment in systems and streamlining its offering
Press releases should always be timely, exciting and relevant. The press thrives on breaking news and being the first to report it. This is why including the release date is critical, and why some press releases are headed "for immediate release”.
It is also not uncommon to put some releases under ‘embargo’. This means that, though you may have sent the release out to a publication, it should not be put into the public domain until a time prescribed by the sender.
This can sometimes make a time-sensitive story seem even more important; however, if it doesn’t really need to be embargoed, then the story runs the risk of being forgotten as it becomes superseded by stories that can be published immediately.
Again, any experienced journalist is likely to know when an embargo is genuinely required and may look unfavorably on stories that have been marked as such needlessly.
A good opening paragraph should summarise your story without giving too much away. You should write your most important information initially, as journalists will analyse its newsworthiness from the outset.
In one sentence, answer the five Ws: ‘Who?’ ‘What?’ ‘Where?’ 'When and Why?' .
For example: 'Black Asian Minority society BHMS (who) donated £3,000 worth of food to (what) students in Swansea (where) on Friday 5th of December (when) to help students combat hunger during the pandemic (why)’’, for example.
Writing a press release involves what is often referred to as the inverted pyramid structure. This means laying it out in order of significance with the most important at the top. This aids in presenting the information in a logical and newsworthy order that motivates a positive action from the journalist and other readers.
Include the rest of your content in order of importance after the introductory paragraph. Make sure the reader gets to the important parts you want them to read as soon as possible.
Give more background information on your story and expand on the 5 Ws as you go down through the release. Do so in one or two paragraphs, with supporting details included. It is optional to include links to any relevant media or other information in this section when providing background information that is simply too long to express in a few concise words.
Quotes are pieces of information that come directly from the source and are attributed to a particular person. It's critical to include who wrote each quote, whether it's the CEO, CMO, or someone else.
Journalists frequently use quotes word for word in their articles. Use this as an opportunity to give the information exactly how you would like it written. It can also allow the organisation to express feelings or opinions on the news covered in the release, through the chosen spokesperson. It's worthwhile because readers will be particularly interested in hearing a personal perspective on the subject.
Be sure to consider the tone and the effect of what is being said and avoid taking too long to say it!
Always end your press release with the word 'ENDS.' This is good journalistic practice because it informs the journalist that the main body of the press release has been completed.
A boilerplate is a basic company summary that gives background information for individuals who are unfamiliar with what they do. As a result, readers – in particular, the journalists first reading it – will have a better understanding of the "Who" and "What" of the 5 W's indicated in the introduction. They can then choose to expand on the release if they want to and you’ve already done the research for them.
It should only be a few sentences in length, addressing the key bits of information, and you can include a link to your press kit if you wish to say more. This allows you to use your press release to generate interest in your firm as a whole (rather than just this story), as well as increase traffic to your website.
Any journalists who read your release may then like to learn more about the company and the story. At the bottom of the press release, clearly write your name, email address and phone number, allowing interested parties to get in touch easily.
At Seren, we specialise in creating high-quality newsworthy press releases for our clients, and our team have a wealth of journalistic experience to aid you. We focus on both b2b PR and b2c, and can tailor your release depending on your specific market.
If you have any questions about writing press releases, or if you have an exciting story you would like to tell, get in touch on 01792 293 333 or contact us here.
23 November 2023
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