5 Tips for Writing a Press Release That Works
A press release can be a great marketing tool, attracting coverage for your business outside your regular channels. It presents a prime opportunity to garner more attention for your brand and convert new audiences into paying consumers.
However, before you put pen to paper, make sure you have a story that a journalist or an editor will want to pick up. Your press release is meant to market your business, but you first have to market the press release itself. Journalists and editors can tell when a press release is just a poorly disguised ad and will cast it aside.
On the other hand, if your business can enrich the public discourse with a story that has a human interest element or a unique perspective on current events, you have the makings of a great press release. The trick to a successful press release is to tell a good story, so be sure you have valuable information to share and tweak the angle of the story to make it more interesting, engaging, and relevant to readers.
If you’re ready to tackle your press release on your own, we’ve put together five simple tips for creating an effective press release for your business. In case you prefer to leave writing to the professionals, have one of our experts write a press release for you.
How to write a press release that works
1. Mind the 5 Ws
The first time you write a press release, it’s hard to know what you’re supposed to include. The good news is that press releases are meant to be short, simple, and informative, so just remember the 5 Ws: Who? What? Where? When? Why? Answer these questions, and you’ll have all the information you need.
You don’t have to get creative and break the mold—in fact, you shouldn’t! Press releases follow a simple and predictable pattern, and their purpose is to convey information quickly and effectively, so stick to the tried and tested formula.
The questions may look something like these:
Who has done or is doing something? (It could be the company or individuals within the company.) Whom does this affect?
What are they doing or have done?
Where and when did they or are they doing it?
Why are they doing it? (In other words, why is this news important to anyone reading?)
2. Lead with the most important information
“Don’t bury the lede” is a well-known saying in journalism, and for good reason: If you don’t capture the reader’s attention immediately, they may not give the rest of the article a chance. Therefore, it’s crucial to start with the most important information and essentially summarize the entire story in the first few sentences—you can get into the finer details in the next paragraphs. Spoilers are no fun in fiction, but there are no spoilers in journalism, so make sure you offer the most interesting and intriguing information right away.
When it comes to length, three to five paragraphs usually suffice. Here’s an outline that will work for almost any press release:
- In the first paragraph, summarize the story in one or two sentences, putting the conclusion or key point front and center.
- In the second paragraph, provide additional context. In particular, explain why this news is important or relevant to the reader. Depending on your target audience, the angle you choose can differ.
- In the third (and subsequent) paragraphs, provide finer details, such as who’s involved, who’s affected, and when and where the story takes place, if relevant. You can also include a quote in one of these paragraphs to share someone’s perspective and lend credibility to the story. At least one quote tends to be standard in a press release, so definitely try to get one for yours if you can.
A press release is often quite short, so don’t worry about padding it. In fact, you’ll most likely need to cut out information, stripping the story down to its bare essentials. Provide only the most important information, with just enough context to make people care about your news.
3. Write in the third person
You can use the first person (and probably should) when writing blog posts and newsletters since you’re talking directly to your audience and want to make it feel as if you’re having a conversation with your readers. Using the third person in such communications will sound stiff and impersonal, and it certainly doesn’t feel inviting.
However, a press release needs to be more detached as it’s published through a third party. It will still be written from your company’s perspective, but use the company name instead of “we”. You’re writing the content, choosing what to include, and deciding how to express it, but the text should read as if it were written by a third party.
4. Create a headline that summarizes the story
Your headline is essentially the biggest marketing tool for your press release—it’s not only what draws the reader to your content but also what piques a journalist’s interest and gets you published in the first place. You want your headline to feature the relevant information about the story so anyone looking can quickly determine if it’s newsworthy.
Journalists and editors receive a huge number of press releases, and the sad reality is they just don’t have the time to read through most of them. It’s therefore incredibly important to craft a headline that offers a snapshot of the story and can intrigue a prospective reader. Don’t forget that the first couple of sentences should effectively summarize the content. The headline (along with the opening sentences) will either convince a journalist or an editor to read your press release (and potentially run with it) or make them toss it aside and move on to the next submission.
5. Send the press release as email text
Here’s something that bears repeating: Journalists and editors receive tons of press releases. This means that the easier you make it for them to read your press release, the better. Don’t send your press release as an attachment—instead, copy the text into the body of the email. It may sound over the top, but journalists and editors are so busy that having to open an attachment will often put them off reading a press release. They’ll take care of formatting when they publish your text, so don’t fret about this detail.
The bottom line: Keep it simple
Most people feel intimidated when writing their first press release, but there’s no need for that—you just have to focus on the nuts and bolts of the story. Make sure it’s newsworthy, and keep it as short as possible while presenting all the essential details. You’ll want to ensure it sounds professional and polished and is free of typos and grammatical errors, but otherwise, a press release is quite simple to write. In short, don’t overthink it!
Have a story about your business to tell but would rather a professional wrote it? If so, have us craft your press release!