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How to Write an Effective Press Release

By February 13, 2014March 30th, 2017Guide to PR, Public Relations

This blog post is part of “The Ultimate Guide to Public Relations” blog series.

Use these tips to write a newsworthy press release that will grab a reporter’s attention.

Press releases have gotten a bad rap. It’s easy to see why.

When I was a reporter, I saw my share of awful ones — press releases with no useful information, ones so mired in jargon that they were almost unreadable, ones whose sole purpose was to massage the ego of a company chief executive. Like most reporters, I couldn’t hit the “delete” button fast enough.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Press releases are still good vehicles to publicize your company’s news. The key is the last word of the previous sentence: NEWS. Your information must be newsworthy. If you craft a newsworthy press release written in clear, concise language, reporters will email or call you back instead of banishing your press release to the digital trash bin.

Here’s how:

Write an informative and short headline. What is the one thing that you want reporters to know? The headline should capture the most important information, use keywords, and be no more than one sentence. Tip: Do not use “a” and “the” in headlines. Here’s a real-life example: “Microsoft and GoDaddy Announce Strategic Partnership to Help Small Businesses.”

Write a strong lede. The lede is the first sentence of a news story, encapsulating the most information. Likewise, your press release should start with a strong lede and include the “5 W’s”– the who, what, why, when, and where.

Give a news hook. Next, answer the question: So what? So what if your company is launching a new product? Why should journalists and the public care? Well, you could quantify how the new product or service may improve people’s lives. If you cannot explain why your product, service or information is newsworthy, guess what? You shouldn’t write a press release.

Include substantive quotes. No vapid “vanity” quotes, please. Provide compelling and catchy quotes that give additional information or anecdotes about your new product or service.

Be concise. Brevity is a virtue. Keep the press release to one page if at all possible. Get to the point and get out.

Avoid gobbledygook. Make sure your press release reaches the widest audience by using language that doesn’t need to be decoded. Clarity is key, and jargon connotes insularity and opacity. Even though every industry has its own specialized language, use terminology that’s unfamiliar to a general audience sparingly, if at all.

Stay away from hyperbole. Words such as “best,” “exclusive” and “next generation” are empty.

Use AP Style: Associated Press style is the news industry standard for grammar, punctuation and the principles and practices of reporting. So make sure your press release conforms to AP Style, otherwise you’ll look like an amateur.

Include contact info, links and multimedia. If you’re announcing the appointment of a new chief executive officer, provide a high-resolution headshot of him or her. If you’re launching a new product, include a link to a video of the product in action. When appropriate, you can also provide B-roll (additional video footage), which can be helpful to broadcast reporters. And make sure your contact info prominently displayed at the top of the press release.

Please let us know if you find these tips useful. Also, feel free to reach out if you need help crafting a press release or if you’d like to talk about options to distribute it to the news media. 

This blog post is part of “The Ultimate Guide to Public Relations” blog series.