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How to write a press release: Follow these 10 rules

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Every business needs to know how to write a press release. Forget about social media. Public Relations (PR) is an essential component of your marketing strategy, and all it costs is your time.

Create breaking news that reporters and editors want to publish, and overnight you can attract qualified leads and build your authority.

It all starts with a good press release. That’s why, in this article, I’m going to show you:

  • How to identify something newsworthy (an angle or news story) that your target audience and its go-to media sources would care about
  • How to write a press release and format it so editors and reporters take notice
  • How to pitch your press release to journalists so it doesn’t get deleted or ignored

I’ll also include a free press release template you can download and examples for you to scrutinize and learn from. So let’s get into press release writing.

    Add a header to begin generating the table of contents

    What is a press release?

    Business owner writing a press release to launch a new product

    A press release or news release (call it what you will) is a brief news announcement or statement sent to the media by a business or PR agency to inform the public about an upcoming event, product launch, company acquisition, and much more.

    It can help a brand or company stand out and build a relationship with a particular publication or a news outlet’s audience. It’s about creating news and sharing a story that benefits the public.

    A well-written press release provides just enough information for a  news outlet to run the piece as is or follow up with an interview.

    Four reasons to write a press release listed here

    Why write a press release?

    As a small business, you probably don’t have a huge marketing budget. Paying for a full-page spread in a magazine or newspaper is simply too expensive.

    1. Write a successful press release, and you can get free media coverage. If the media runs your news story, you can raise awareness about your brand, product, event, or story without investing in advertising.
    2. It also builds credibility and authority. Remember, media outlets and their journalists have spent years building relationships with their target audience. They know what matters to their readers or listeners. So if they publish your press release, essentially, they’re saying your brand and the news or story you share is trustworthy. You can’t buy this kind of press.
    3. Getting your press release published also helps with backlinks. Most media websites have a high domain ranking. Typically, they’ll link back to your company website, driving potential traffic. Google views these types of backlinks favorably because the media is considered to be reputable.  So it can increase your domain ranking.
    4. Lastly, it’s a great way to manage a public relations crisis. Bad press is bad for business. You need to be able to respond quickly, and this is a great way to do it.

    Do you need to hire a public relations firm?

    Now you might be wondering if it’s better to use a traditional distribution service to handle public relations for your company.

    I prefer to keep things in-house. Yes, it can be time-consuming to build relationships with journalists, but you’re building your intellectual property (IP). You’re not waiting on someone else to write your press release. All you need to do is to have a good idea, write it, put it into a press release format and hit send.

    Just download our free press release template and follow our step-by-step guide on press release writing, and soon you’ll be creating news.

    So let’s look at the types of press releases you can write.

    Types of press releases

    • Book launch – Publishing houses will write a press release to promote a new book launch or touring author. This is sent to book journalists and often includes an offer to interview the author, review the book or perhaps a giveaway for the media’s audience. This type of press release includes a brief synopsis about the book, the price, author’s name and book title, and the publicist whom the journalist can contact to arrange an interview.
    • Product launches – A new product or service on the market is newsworthy. A product launch press release notes price, product specs, and availability.
    • New acquisition or merger – A company merger is newsworthy, particularly if it impacts your customers. For example, it could be two medical schemes or airlines merging. In this case, you’d send a merger press release.
    • Event – An event press release is an excellent way to get media coverage for your virtual or live event. It offers journalists something timely to share with their target audience. Examples include adventure races, grand openings, music or book festivals, conventions, and much more.
    • New hires or promotions- Has your company hired someone noteworthy? It’s not unusual for media in certain industries to share news about new company hires. Typically, this would be a niche publication.
    • Raising awareness about a cause – Are you trying to raise funds for a good cause? An effective press release can help promote your cause or competition. Think of the Ice-bucket Challenge. It raised $115 million for ALS.
    Bill Gates and Rita Ora doing the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.
    • Product updates – Big brands like Samsung or Apple will send a product press release whenever they launch a new product. This also allows journalists to test the new product and review it.

    • Rebranding – As an established brand, it can be a risky move to rebrand your company. What if your raving fans hate it? But rebranding creates conversation, and it can attract a ton of new potential customers. The key is to get it right.
    ABSA Logo Rebranding
    Dunkin Donuts Logo Rebranding.
    • Grand openings – A great way for new restaurants to attract potential customers is to send a grand opening press release. Invite the media to cover your launch and write about it. Entertainment or foodie journalists typically cover grand openings.

    How to get your press release published

    Journalists work on tight deadlines. Budgets are being slashed across the globe, and they now have to churn out multiple newsworthy stories each day. If you can make their job easier and provide a news story, they’ll take notice.

    But it’s not just about the content you provide. How you structure your press release can impact the journalist’s decision to publish or ignore it.

    So when writing a press release, it needs to be grammatically correct and ready to go. If the media can copy and paste your press release into their publication with minimal changes, all the better.

    Formatting your press release

    Keep in mind that a good press release format is essential when pitching your news to the media. You need to include these elements:

    • A company or brand logo
    • For your attention / immediate release PLUS Embargo details and dates if necessary and contact details (name, telephone number, email address)
    • An attention-grabbing headline
    • Include a sub-heading if necessary (one sentence (at most), providing extra information to help sell your story)
    • Media release: Include your location and the date
    • Intro / first paragraph: summarize your news in two or three sentences without repeating the headline.
    • Body paragraphs/body copy: Tell a story, answer a question, include interesting facts or stats, as well as bullet points. Keep sentences short and punchy. Break up walls of text. Avoid repetition, fancy language, and jargon (unless required). Stick to the facts: who, what, where, when, why, and how?
    • Quotes: Include one or two interesting sound bites that the journalist can use.
    • Call-to-action: What do you want the audience to do next?

    Note to editor: Also known as a boilerplate, this is a section where you include details about your company and contact information.

    Step-by-step guide on formatting a press release
    *** FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE ***
    *** UNDER STRICT EMBARGO UNTIL DATE & TIME *** (only if necessary)

    ATTENTION-GRABBING HEADLINE (MAX 20 WORDS)

    SUB-HEADING TO HELP SELL YOUR STORY ONLY IF REQUIRED

    MEDIA RELEASE: City/Location, Date of Release e.g.: June 1, 2017:

    INTRO: In two to three sentences, summarize your news in this paragraph.

    BODY COPY: It’s secondary information which is relevant to the story.

          • Who is the source of the news announcement?
          • What is the news announcement?
          • Where is this news occurring?
          • When is this news occurring?
          • Why is the news important to your reader?

    INCLUDE ONE OR TWO INTERESTING QUOTES

    ADD photographs, infographics, or videos

    INSERT A CALL-TO-ACTION

    Facebook – INSERT YOUR COMPANY PROFILE

    Instagram – INSERT YOUR COMPANY HANDL

    Twitter – INSERT YOUR COMPANY HANDLE

    – END –

    Note to Editors

    For further information, images, or interview requests contact:
    Name: email address, phone number, mobile number

    About: INSERT YOUR NAME/COMPANY NAME
    Give a brief description about your company (no more than 150 words).

    Use these tips to help write your press release:

    How to write a press release

    Keep in mind, the perfect press release follows these 10 rules.

    Writing the perfect press release

    Rule 1: Select a topic that will generate a buzz.

    Journalists love to be the first to share the news. So the topic you write about needs to be a scoop, news announcement, or data trend.

    Rule 2: Ask yourself, Why would anyone care?

    Before writing anything, put yourself in the journalist’s shoes and ask yourself:

    • What’s in it for me and my audience?
    • What’s the story?
    • Why should I care?
    • Why should I care NOW?

    What value does your press release offer? PR can make your story more influential, but it needs to be factual, credible, and relevant to the publication you’re sharing it with.

    Rule 3: Choose an impactful headline.

    It needs to be an attention-grabbing headline. Can you write something punchy, captivating, and informative? Here are a few ideas for a strong press release headline:

    • Use numbers or statistics.
    • Have a unique point-of-view.
    • Make an audacious promise.
    • Use what, why, how, or when.
    • Be controversial. If you have an angle in opposition to a commonly held opinion or fact, that’s a great way to get the press’s attention.

    Rule 4: Create interest with a stat, controversial idea, or authoritative quote.

    The first paragraph of your press release must outline the topic you’re addressing and the argument that supports your position.

    Journalists love data. Facts and figures lend credibility to a story, so if you can show some form of data, do it. But it needs to be the real deal. You can’t survey 100 of your closest friends and hope to be taken seriously. You need to accumulate information from at least 2,000 sources, and they need to be relevant to your industry.

    Once you’ve got their attention, use the following sentences to expand on your position.

    Rule 5: Establish credibility.

    To become a source, you need to establish credibility. And to do this, you need to specifically lay out what makes you qualified to speak about a particular subject.

    • Have you written a best-selling business book or built a multimillion-dollar business in a year?
    • Did you invent something that’s trending?
    • Were you a speaker at a TEDx event?
    • Have you broken a world record?
    • Can you show social proof, for example, podcasts or publications you’ve been featured in?
    • How many years have you been in business? Draw on your experiences, and if it’s beneficial to the press release, the mistakes you’ve made.

    Basically, what have you done that can lend weight to your press release and make the journalist take notice of you? Make sure you include this information in your press release.

    Rule 6: Tell your story in a nutshell.

    Can you explain what your story is about in three or four sentences?

    • How does this impact others?
    • Why is it important?
    • Who should care?

    The body copy is your chance to sum up the angle of your press release.

    Rule 7: Keep your press release short.

    The optimal length for a press release is between 300 and 400 words. You want to give enough information so the journalist can run the story as is, without needing to arrange an in-person or Zoom interview.

    You also want to align the tone of your press release with the publication’s style and tone. 

    Stick to the facts, keep it concise, and don’t use flowery language or lots of jargon. Your press release needs to be immediately understood.  A good tip is to write so that a 14-year-old could understand it.

    Rule 8: Format your press release.

    Unless you’re on personal time and reading a novel, walls of text can be intimidating and off-putting. Journalists want to be able to scan your press release and quickly pick out key points. To make your press release more readable use:

    • Bullet points
    • Numbered points
    • Italics
    • Bold
    • Headers and subheaders

    Rule 9: Include a call-to-action.

    The ultimate goal of your press release is to get a follow-up interview with the journalist. To do that, they need to know whom to get in touch with.

    So at the very end of your press release, you must include your contact details:

    • Full name
    • Email address
    • Phone number

    For example, (Name) is available for interview or comment. (Include your landline or cell number and email address).

    Rule 10: Close with a boilerplate.

    This is a short description (roughly 150 words) of your company or the author of the press release.

    Rules for pitching press releases to media

    Top tips for sending your press release

    After putting all this effort into writing a press release,  you need to make sure you generate actual press for your story. Keep these eight tips in mind when sending a press release:

    1: Don’t bulk email.

    After putting all this effort into writing a press release,  you need to make sure you generate actual press for your story. Keep these eight tips in mind when sending a press release:

    2: Personalize your pitch.

    Again, something as simple as writing the journalist’s name in the subject line can give you a leg up in the pitching process. Whatever you do, don’t include the wrong name. Another great tactic is referencing an article they’ve recently written that you particularly liked or felt was relevant to your press release.

    Or consider taking a contrary view and have the data to back up your thought process. Compelling arguments are hard to resist, so give the journalist a reason to keep reading.

    3: Watch your tone.

    This isn’t your pal, so while you want to be professional and friendly, it’s also important to keep your tone conversational.

    4: Use your subject line to summarize the story in under 10 words.

    Email subject lines are powerful. You need to spend a good amount of time figuring out what would make the journalist stop scrolling and start reading your press release.

    5: Explain why your story is interesting.

    Again, why should the journalist care? How does the information in your press release benefit the media’s readers? What are they going to get out of it? If it doesn’t serve their audience, if it’s not new, they won’t publish it. So keep it concise and compelling.

    6: Paste the press release in the body of your email.

    While some PR agencies might tell you to attach your press release, I prefer to include it in the body of the email. I’d also attach a high-resolution image of your company logo or yourself. Alternatively, include a shareable link to your Google Drive where they can download your press pack.

    7: Connect with the journalist over social media.

    If you can, reach out to the editor or journalist and mention that you’ve emailed them. Some PR agencies suggest phoning the journalist. It really depends on where in the world the journalist is located.

    In Australia, calling a journalist before you send your press release is good practice. But in the U.S., journalists don’t have time to answer your call. They usually prefer an email or a DM via Twitter or Instagram. So make sure you know the preferences of the journalist you’re engaging with.

    8: Follow up two to three days later.

    If you haven’t heard back from the journalist in two or three days, send a follow-up email. Remember, reporters’ inboxes are inundated with pitches from hopeful business owners much like yourself. Some land in their spam folder, so it’s a good idea to send a follow-up email. Something like this:

    Hey, (their name),

    It’s (your name) from (brand/company). I’m just checking to see if you received my email about (topic). I sent it a couple of days ago and I’m available to talk things over whenever it’s convenient for you.

    (Mention why you think the topic would interest their audience. Does it take a stance, back up a new thought or trend?)

    Here’s a high-level overview:

    (State what the news is.

    Mention why it’s important to their audience.

    Include compelling stats or data.)

    You can read the full press release here. (Make this a hyperlink to a Google folder.)

    Thanks for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you.

    You don’t want to send your follow-up email too soon or follow up more than two times. This will only irritate the journalist or, worse, make you look desperate. Your name and email address will go into their do-not-engage list, and you’ll never get featured in their publication.

    Also, avoid boring subject lines like RE: or Checking In. Instead, rephrase it to include the journalist’s name, For example, Hey (name), I haven’t heard from you….

    Example of a press release template

    Pitching on behalf of someone

    Hi there,

    I handle PR for (insert name), the (founder/owner/author/CEO) of (name of business). I’m getting in touch because (state newsworthy angle). Here’s why (this story) would be a great fit for your (publication, talk show, podcast, etc.):

    (State why the content is relevant in three bullet points.)

    (Close with a call-to-action (plus your business phone number and email address.)

    (Include a link to your website and social media networks.)

    Kind regards,

    (your name)

    P.S. (Brand, company, or your name) has an email list of over (00,000) (state the audience, for example, small business owners) that we’d be happy to share the article with.

    NOTE: Paste in press release PLUS attach pdf version and high-resolution images

    Pitching as yourself

    Hi (name),

    My name is (your name), and I am the (founder/owner/author/CEO) of (your business). I’m getting in touch because (state newsworthy angle – hosting an event, raising funds for a good cause, launching a product, innovating a service etc.). Here’s why (this story) would be a great fit for your (publication, talk show, podcast, etc.):

    State why the content is relevant with three bullet points.

    (Close with a call-to-action (how to contact you: your business phone number and email address).)

    (Include a link to your website and social media networks)

    Kind regards,

    (your name)

    P.S. (Brand, company, or your name) has an email list of over (00,000) (state the audience, for example, small business owners) that we’d be happy to share the article with.

    NOTE: Paste in press release PLUS attach pdf version and high-resolution images

    Press release example

    I’ve compiled a few press release examples you can use to inspire the writing process.

    • Company announcement press release:
    United Airlines Announces Proposed Senior Secure Notes Offering

    View the full press release here.

    • Book launch press release:
    Final John Le Carre Novel

    Read the full press release article here.

    • Event launch press release:
    Virtual Launch of A Gambling Man by David Baldacci

     

    • News announcement press release:
    CNN Special Report

    Read the full CNN press release here.

    • Mergers and acquisitions press release:
    Cloudtera Enters into Defentive Agreement

    Read the full story here.

    To recap

    And that’s our guide on how to write a press release that gets media coverage. These are tried and trusted tips and techniques that we’ve used to get coverage for our brand. Make it newsworthy, get the format of your press release right, and don’t forget to list your contact information.

    If you know how to write a press release that journalists want to cover, you’ll always be able to generate free press for your story.

    So make sure you include public relations in your marketing plan.

    What are you waiting for? The media waits for no one, so start writing your business press release now.

    If you need help, consider our 1PMP Course. It covers how to build public relations into your marketing strategy.

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