writing press releases

Last time, we talked about articles and blog posts. Now it’s time to talk about press releases. A press release is a very specific form of content. It’s not intended for your website (although, of course, you can publish it there), nor for SEO purposes. The main idea behind a press release is to support your PR activity and get some publicity in local, national, and maybe even international media. Today, I want to talk about press releases. And since I’ve run a PR agency for six years and I’ve written 1,000+ press releases, hopefully, you’ll find some useful information here. 🙂

First things first: Press releases are rather short forms of content (their length rarely exceeds 800 words). Companies and PR agencies craft them to inform the market and all the stakeholders about what’s happening in the company. Typically, press releases are sent to:

  • Journalists
  • Clients
  • Business partners
  • Management
  • Investors

Therefore, they can play a valid role in the way your company is perceived on the market. What should you know about them?

How to create a good press release

There are a few commandments for creating an exhaustive and professional press release. Let’s take a closer look at them.

5Ws

how to write a press release: 5Ws

You start with five basic questions, frequently referred to as 5Ws. These Ws are:

  1. Who is it about?
  2. What happened?
  3. When did it take place?
  4. Where did it happen?
  5. Why did it happen?

Many people add a sixth question: How did it happen? Usually, it’s relevant, but not always. 5Ws are extremely useful in journalism because they enable getting all the information you need and creating a complete story on a given subject. If you want your press release to be attractive from the journalists’ perspective, ensure it comprises satisfactory answers to all these five (six) questions.

GET TO THE POINT QUICKLY

Usually, the journalist has just about five seconds (that’s one of the reasons why press releases shouldn’t be too long) to take a look at your press release and assess whether they are interested in it. Therefore, there’s no time for long introductions and beating around the bush. You need to get quickly to the point and explain what you are writing about and why. That’s why the first paragraph of your piece (referred to as a lead in the PR world) needs to be filled with solid details. So should the following paragraph.

The last paragraphs should be about less important details and the background of the whole situation. Many PR consultants add a so-called backgrounder at the end of a press release. It’s a short text explaining the context further and giving additional details that don’t fit in the press release.

BE SPECIFIC

The journalist (or any other person receiving the text) expects to find substantial data and information in the press release they get. This way, they can easily use it to write an article. Sometimes, your press release will be just a small part of the bigger text, and sometimes it will constitute a standalone piece. Both scenarios are good, primarily because you can never be sure whether the journalist will use your piece and how.

If you want to increase chances for publication, give them the information they are interested in. If you have any research, market reports, specific numbers or facts the journalist could quote – give it to them!

ADD QUOTES

Journalists like to get ready-made press materials. That’s why you ought to quote a person directly involved in the specific project/event and offer contact details so that the journalist can quickly get in touch with an indicated expert. This way, the given journalist can get their questions answered, which also significantly increases the chances of publication. Even better, when you offer not just the possibility to ask more questions but also to conduct an interview. Of course, not every journalist will decide to do that (interviews are time-consuming), but they will surely appreciate your willingness to cooperate and proactivity.

DON’T FORGET ABOUT ADDITIONAL MATERIALS

I always say that content writing is not only about written text. It’s also about additional materials that accompany it and supplement it. If you have any photos, graphics, charts, animations, videos, whatever – add them to your email. If they weigh too much, put them on a chosen online disc (e.g. Google Drive or Dropbox) so that anyone interested can download them. This way, you won’t block someone’s inbox with a 40-MB message. Typically, your email shouldn’t exceed 2 MB tops.

Put all that together, and you end up with a well-crafted press release that journalists can use in the articles they’re working on. Now, let’s answer a second question – how can you promote and distribute your press releases?

How to distribute press releases

Suppose you already have your press release written. What now? There are a few options:

  • Website: Many large companies create special sections on their websites where they put all the media-related materials. Such sections are usually referred to as newsrooms. In such a newsroom, you can publish press releases (just like you publish blog posts on a blog), the latest company news, upcoming events, corporate data, and direct contact details to a person responsible for media relations. Of course, creating a newsroom makes sense only when you publish these texts regularly (at least once a month). Take a look at Samsung US Newsroom:

press releases samsung newsroom

  • Journalists: If you work with a PR consultant/agency, they surely have a list of journalists working in a specific niche. You can simply send your press release to selected reporters. A word of advice here: Don’t do mass mailings. Sending a press release about a beer to parenting magazines is a huge faux pas and a waste of time. Find out what a given journalist is interested in before sending them anything. If you can’t find such a piece of information, you can always use the general email address.
  • Newsletters: Typically, they are sent to people and companies interested in your activity. Customers, investors, vendors, and contractors frequently get them. It’s worth telling them that there is something important going on in your company, right? Plus, you don’t have to think too much about what to include in the upcoming newsletter! 🙂
  • Social media: It’s the same story with social media. Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook are good to post the latest company news. Not to mention that many journalists use these platforms to find interesting topics to write about.

Use a PR platform (?)

If you find it challenging to distribute press releases yourself, you can use a dedicated PR platform to help you with that. There are many interesting platforms on the market. Many of them consist of hundreds of journalists and reporters from different media and countries. After submitting a press release, you can decide who should receive it. This way, the process is simplified, and you don’t have to worry about processing personal data because it’s all on the platform’s shoulders.

Such PR platforms that you can use to distribute news are, e.g.:

  • Prowly
  • Meltwater
  • Prezly
  • Muck Rack
  • Newswire

And several others. See their offers, compare pricing, and pick the tool that ticks all your boxes.

Of course, not every company need to publish press releases. If you don’t have any ideas for them – don’t worry; that’s not necessarily a bad thing. If you want to start PR activities, get in touch with experienced PR consultants and agencies. They will offer you some advice and guidance on where to start.