Writing a press release can seem simple. However, writing a good and efficient press release has its secrets. Here are some basic steps to consider when undertaking this task.
Finding a journalistic or news angle
The first thing is to find what you want to communicate and understand its informative value from a journalistic point of view, while taking into consideration the audience you want to reach. A valid question to ask is “Have I seen this type of information published somewhere else?”
Structure and format
It might seem just a detail, but structuring a press release correctly and respecting traditional formats can make all the difference between a professional announcement and one that is not. The structure and format of a press release helps journalists scan information quickly. Keep in mind that they receive hundreds or thousands of news releases per day, and if they can’t process it quickly, it will most likely end in their recycle bin.
It must contain the main message or idea in the press release.
It must expand, complement and contextualize the title, to complete the main idea and provide a summary of the information included in the release.
The first paragraph must contain all of the information in the most complete, comprehensive and clear way.
The following paragraphs must contain complementary information and provide context to the main announcement, allowing the reader to comprehend its extent and impact. The information must be organized by relevance, from most relevant to least, in an inverted pyramid structure.
A quote from a spokesperson is always welcomed by the media, and an important part within many journalistic routines.
Date and location
The press release must indicate the place where it is issued from. Typically, the city and country are detailed; they can be more than one city, if it is an announcement being done simultaneously by a few offices or involving different areas. The date is also extremely important, because it indicates to the journalist the moment in which the information was made known for the first time. Some organizations also use ‘’for immediate distribution’’ to indicate to the media that the information can be published at that very moment.
Including a boilerplate with information about the organization issuing the press release is key for the journalists to understand who is sending the information.
Every press release must include a press contact with an email address and telephone number for the journalists to contact in case of doubts or for additional information. This also increases the announcement’s credibility.
Nowadays, and especially in digital media, it is vital that the release includes at least one image that could be used to illustrate the information. Most content management systems (CMS) require an image. And it will be even better if the image has informative value to it.
It is also a good idea to include photographs, a literal quote from someone in the organization, and any other document or multimedia content that complements or expands the information.
Don’t use adjectives nor ornaments
Press releases must be informative and, as such, must highlight facts and date, not opinions. It doesn’t matter if your company is the ‘’market leader’’ or if you have the ‘’most innovative product’’. Instead, you can share information about the percentage of the market your company holds, how many clients you have, or explain in the most detailed way possible why your product is interesting.
The information must be able to be read plainly and simply as well as quickly. Do not include literary figures and/or overtones (that is the journalist’s job in the case they decide to do it) and don’t try to create mystery or catch attention. That will only get your release discarded quicker.
Keep it simple
Ideally, a press release should contain one or two main announcements or key messages/ideas, and then the complementary information to answer the most common questions that could arise. If there are more than two main messages, it is probably best to issue two separate releases in order to avoid a confusing text
Include relevant, precise and accurate information
This might seem obvious, but sometimes it is not. You must include any related, relevant information that supports your story or announcement and that you are authorized to use (could be public domain information, your own data, surveys and investigations that you have done, etc.). All information and specific facts that can be included will increase the informative value of your release. Only make sure to check the facts and quote the source of the information.
Always remember that a press release is ‘’raw material’’ for the media, and not the news itself. Remember that journalists won’t necessarily publish your release exactly as you wrote it, but rather they will work with the information contained in your announcement, modifying, summarizing and/or expanding it, combining it with other similar announcements, including it in selected reports amongst other things; you must be prepared for that. You should also remember that once your announcement has been publicly released, the information can be considered public domain and will serve as a historical reference in the future, therefore you must make sure that all of the information has been properly checked and ready to be shared at that moment.