Press releases are an effective and cost-efficient component of any public relations strategy. With a press release, you’ll be able to spread the word of important achievements or events to the news media and the public at large.
As important as it is, writing the press release can take up a lot of time especially if your company releases them on a regular basis. While you do get faster as you get more familiar with the press release format and more experience writing, you starting from scratch every single time is a waste of effort.
A press release template can reduce the amount of time spent. Just get all the available facts and follow the prescribed guidelines, and you’ve got a press release!
This article will cover the basics of writing a press release, while also teaching you how to create a reusable press release template of your own.
What is a press release?
A press release is an official statement presented to one or more news organisations. The news organisation will either publish this statement verbatim or extract elements of the press release and present it as part of a larger article.
A press release serves multiple purposes. It can:
- Provide information
- Make an announcement
- Communicate an official statement
Press releases are useful for sharing facts about a specific event, person, product, or organization in a way that you can control. A good press release can provide the following benefits:
- Opportunity for free exposure
- Greater name recognition
- Increased credibility
- Influence over public opinion as it relates to an issue or event
- Increased sales potential
Note that a press release is not the same as paid coverage. You don’t have to pay for any news coverage that results from press release distribution. On the other hand, journalists and media publications are not obliged to publish any press release you give them. They can decide to not use your press release at all and write about something else, instead.
That’s why it’s important for you to craft useful, relevant, and well-written press releases. These have a higher chance of being picked up by news organisations.
How do I write a press release?
Whether you’re writing a one-time press release or a reusable press release template, your work has to follow these steps:
Find your angle
Ideally, a press release tackles one angle at a time.
An “angle” in media terms is a perspective on a specific topic or event. Let’s take the opening of a new theme park. A “business” angle would talk about the company behind the theme park and how successful they are. A “family” angle talks about how much fun the theme park would be for kids. An “economy” angle talks about the jobs the new theme park will bring in and its effect on the community.
Different media outlets will have their own preferred angles of interest, and it’s up to you to decide which one to prioritize before writing the press release.
Answer the 5 Ws
Your press release structure has to adhere to the 5 W’s of journalism.
Who. Who is the press release about? Who are the people involved in the story?
What. What is happening? What are the circumstances behind this story?
When. When did this story occur? Is it timely enough to still be relevant?
Where. Where did this happen? Is it a local story or is it of global interest?
Why. Why does this story matter? Why should people care? How is your target audience affected?
All this information will help your reader better understand the value of your news and why it’s worthy of their attention. Also, having all this information on hand will make your press release easier to write.
Especially if you have a press release template.
What is a press release template?
When you write, you have to follow a defined press release format. While this may seem to limit from a creativity standpoint, it serves a very important purpose.
You see, journalists have to go through dozens or even hundreds of press releases in a single month. By following a prescribed format, you make it easy for them to see important information and assess whether or not your story is worth exploring further.
Let’s cover the most important sections of the press release structure:
Press release template headline
The headline or title is a one-sentence summary of your press release. A well-written headline stops people in their tracks and encourages them to dig deeper into the article.
Your headline should be both catchy and honest. Misleading or “clickbait” article headlines annoy readers and journalists and will create a negative response.
Press release template release language
You can control when an article will be released by including FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE at the top of the article. If you want to hold the release until a certain date, however, you should say HOLD RELEASE UNTIL [Date].
Press release template contact info
This is where you would list the contact information of whoever’s talking to the media. Name, email and telephone number are standard.
Press release template summary bullet points
Boil your article down to their most important elements and list them in one to three bullet points. This is the first place journalists will look when scanning your article, and the first test of its relevance.
Press release template intro paragraph
This is going to be your article overview. It will walk a fine line between detail and brevity. It should contain enough information for the reader to understand why the article is so important, but not long enough to bore or overwhelm the reader. A summary paragraph averages 3-5 sentences long.
Press release template body
This is your opportunity to provide more information about the press release topic. Go into as much detail as is necessary to communicate your message, but whenever possible keep the length of the press release down to one page.
A good press release will also include a quote from a person relevant to whatever is being discussed. This can either be a senior company officer, a subject matter expert, a public figure, or someone closely involved or related to the matter at hand.
Press release template boilerplate
In public relations terminology, a boilerplate is a brief description of your organisation that is provided at the end of a press release. Boilerplates are included so that readers who don’t know your company can understand what your company is and why the press release is so significant.
Putting it all together
Now that you have the basic skeleton of a press release, you’ll be able to adapt it for any kind of official communication.
What makes a good press release?
There are hundreds-thousands-of press releases that are technically correct, but lacking otherwise. These are press releases that talk but don’t speak. They give information, but don’t give value.
So what makes a press release “good?” How can it draw the attention of journalists and readers alike without resorting to cheap tricks?
Significant and specific
The first and most important thing you can do to increase your press release’s chance of success is to choose a significant topic—one that’s relevant to a specific audience.
Many companies make the mistake of assuming journalists and their audiences have the same set of priorities that you do. For example, you might have expanded your team or hired new leadership, but not every publication is going to find that interesting enough to report on.
Your chosen topic should also be targeted to a specific audience. A new line of manufacturing products is significant, but only for trade magazines in the same industry. You wouldn’t send that to a lifestyle magazine for publication.
Match the topic with your ideal audience and your job is halfway done.
As I mentioned earlier, journalists often use a press release as a basis for their own article. The copy you include might not make it into the final release untouched, but the quote definitely will. That’s why it’s important to include quotes in your own press release. It encourages journalists to carry it over to flesh out their own piece.
What makes a good quote?
First off, the quote has to be from somebody significant, like a high-ranking officer of the company or a recognized subject matter expert. This increases the authority of the information being provided.
Second, the quote has to be free of jargon or unnecessary technical terms. The more understandable the quote is to the intended audience, the better. It’s ok to use more technical terminology if the press release is an industry publication where everyone speaks the same language.
Include facts and hard numbers
Journalists are fact-checkers. It’s part of their job. If you’re going to make a statement or claim, be sure you include the facts and statistics to back them up.
For instance, you might claim that the company had “a great year.” But what constitutes “great” in this instance? How much money did you make this year? Is it great in comparison to last year? What were last year’s numbers?
The more evidence you include, the greater the chance journalists will include them in the final version. These will be shared publicly so make certain the numbers are accurate.
Organize your article in a reverse pyramid
Newspapers and magazines are always trying to save on layout space, so journalists often trim press releases before they publish them. When they trim, they cut from the bottom up.
Prevent important parts from getting trimmed by writing your article in a “reverse pyramid” fashion. This means all of the most important information stays at the top in the first paragraph, with more information being dribbled out to the second and third paragraphs in descending order of priority.
Bringing it all together
Reusable templates can save you a lot of time and effort, especially if you communicate with the press on a regular basis.
By following the proper format and sticking to best practices when writing, you’ll be able to regularly generate newsworthy pieces that have a better chance of getting picked up by news media.