Press releases are important marketing devices, providing coverage of important news to journalists and target markets. Writing a professional press release is difficult, but it’s important to get it right if you want to achieve the best results.
Who is your audience?
Narrow down your audience before you begin writing; this will help ensure your content is highly targeted. Create a profile of your ideal reader and write for this person. You may wish to consider factors such as age, income, gender, geographic location and common daily struggles. Look at older press releases in your niche and see which ones have been successful.
Who are you contacting?
If submitting a press release to an individual journalist, try to find information on the person’s background and working hours. If you can send your press release outside peak hours there’s more chance of it being read. Some people advise contacting the journalist before you send the press release, just as a courtesy call. If you do, keep it brief, courteous and professional.
Why is the press release being written?
Make sure there’s a reason for your press release being written. A significant number of businesses write press releases to cover special offers, discounts or minor changes. These are not newsworthy events. Rapid growth, new product launches, significant PR coverage and new important relationships may be written about. However, what counts as news will depend on your industry, the journalist you are contacting, and your target audience. If in doubt, stand on the shoulders of giants: see what other businesses in your niche are talking about and take their lead.
Language and tone
Most press releases use a ‘house style’ tone, which is free of subjective information and easy to read.
- Concise – keep the language concise, using smaller and simpler words where possible. Avoid superfluous information; would you audience really be interested in the extra details?
- Engaging – don’t write sluggishly using sentences with multiple subordinate clauses. Keep your sentences light, short and to the point. Use active verbs and avoid the passive voice
- Objective – don’t include opinion in press releases unless quoting a third party. Stick to the directly quantifiable facts that can be corroborated if necessary. Journalists must maintain standards of integrity; objective press releases help them do so
- Professional – use industry-standard language. Words and phrases that are not considered common parlance within your sector will stand out and mark you as an amateur. Read industry magazines and past press releases to get a taste of what’s expected
Content and layout
- Date of release – a standard phrase denoting when the press release can be distributed is included at the very top of the page. This will normally be ‘For immediate release’ although ‘For release before (date)’ and ‘For release after (date)’ are acceptable in the case of embargoed information
- Heading – headings should not attempt to be funny or include puns; if the humour is missed the heading will confuse. A cogent and strong line that sums up the press release’s purpose is the best type of heading. Use of bold is recommended
- Sub-heading – a two line summary that expands slightly on the heading is included in italics underneath the heading. This should furnish a few extra details but remain succinct and strong
- Main body – Don't waffle! Use the inverted pyramid style of writing, with the most important details at the top, gradually working towards the least important details. Use active sentences and remain impartial.
- Ends and contact information – Include a chequered line (--------------) below the main body and then follow with contact details and sources of further information. You also wish to provide some extra information should the journalist wish to write a longer piece. This will generally be background information on parties involved, such as businesses, directors or partners.