Does the phrase “press release” make you draw a complete blank or simply make you nervous? It shouldn’t. A press release is a powerful marketing tool that is surprisingly underutilized. Some journalists protest writers using press releases to market a product or a business, but the effectiveness of this oldie but goodie method is still there. Press releases may be submitted online as well, falling right in step with the digital age.
So, just what is a press release?
A press release is a formal announcement of something new going on in your business, like a new book, new employees, a new service, expansion or an award. A press release draws attention to your business and product, and ideally should hook the journalist to learn more. While press releases used to be distributed in print, the digital age created a new platform for easily and inexpensively–often free–distributing them.
So, how do you write a press release?
Press releases have a standard format, and deviating from it creates a rather high risk of having your news ignored. Always note in the top left corner of the press release in capital letters FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE or HOLD FOR RELEASE UNTIL… Do not use exclamation points or capital letters for emphasis. A press release is not sales copy, it’s news and is written for journalists, not consumers. You want the journalist to want to write a story, and this will be directed at consumers.
Below are the components of a press release:
1. Title: approximately 100 characters in length, and should reflect the news you are sharing.
2. City, State/Country, Date
3. Summary: approximately 250-300 characters in length and should contain a few sentences that summarize the what the press release is about
4. Body: the main part of your press release that provides details about the news you just shared, especially the who-what-when-where-why, but not everything, creating enough curiosity for more details that will drive the reader to your business, website, event, product, etc. to learn more.
5. Quote: from you or someone relevant to the story
6. About the company: end your press release with a short paragraph providing an overview of your company.
7. Contact info: this includes name, phone number, email, website, and physical address.
8. End with ###: indicates the end of the press release.
A press release is a business communication and should be treated as such. Informal speech, jargon, or slang should be saved for blogs or text messaging. Please check your spelling and grammar. WARNING: Don’t get so locked in to focusing on business writing that you forget important components such as engagement. Make it interesting, and keep it short. You may want to include more information for editors, such as photo opportunities, other relevant information about your company, pictures or interviewees that are available. Keep it short and to the point–journalists have very little time, and yours is not the only press release sitting in their email or on their desks.