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How To Write

How to Write a Press Release

Technically speaking, a press release is used to inform a reporter, newspaper, magazine, or publishing house. However, given today’s fragmented media, which has grown to include online resources such as e-zine article databases, content aggregation services and B2B websites among others, the traditional press release has grown to encompass existing and potential customers, business partners and even investors. Welcome to the new dawn of press releases.

Who’s Who in Press Releases

Some businesses have even begun to refer to press releases as ‘information releases’ that no longer aim at getting the news to the media. Rather, they aim at simply getting the news out. The role of the target audience may have changed over the years, but thankfully the information contained in a press release still remains recognizable. Let’s look at these information elements in the order in which they appear in a typical press release.

Headlines: Headlines rarely manage to present the newsworthy information in a nutshell. The shrewder approach is to use the headline to ‘hook’ or grab the readers’ attention and engage it for a sufficiently long timeframe for the rest of the message to be read. Newspaper headlines still serve as good examples of headline writing. It is, however, important to be aware of the rules and limitations of the host website, such as word or character length. Formatting of headlines still follows the classic ‘Title case.’

Summary: Summaries appearing immediately after headlines are a moot point, as they indicate a certain kind of ‘desperation’ in dealing with reduced attention spans. However, the risk of a summary — which is usually a single paragraph of three to four lines — is that your reader might simply choose to ignore the rest of the release, thereby reducing your eventual news coverage/mention in the news.

Dateline: The first sentence of the main body always starts with a date and the city of origin.

Introductory Paragraph: This is where you actually describe the newsworthiness of the subject of the release. This paragraph must include answers to the classic reporter questions of who, what, when, where and why. Recently, more stylistic variations have been observed.

Important Tips: Always write press releases in third-person; instead of we, us and ours, use they, them and theirs. Also, do not use sub-headings in a press release.

Subsequent Paragraphs: This is where a press release writer is at liberty to answer the fifth reporter question; of how. This is where you can include more details and aspects of the subject. An explanation, statistics, background details can be used to substantiate the information contained in the introduction paragraph.

Here too, pay specific attention to any limitations posed by the hosting site, such as body length. For example, some might require you to limit the body to around 3000 characters or 500 words. You should also ensure that you have evenly sized paragraphs, roughly five to eight lines long. Add a line space between each paragraph.

About’ Section: This is a short paragraph profiling and/or providing background information about the company or organization issuing the press release. It is also known as the ‘boilerplate,’ since it is a standard element in press releases and can be the same in case of a number of press releases (on different topics) issued by the same company.

Media Contact Information: This section contains the contact information for media relations. This is traditionally added if the reporter requires additional information and wishes to get in touch with the organization that has issued the press release.

Finally, always try and think in terms of the reader. Too many press releases are crammed with business jargon, un-substantiated adjectives, inadequate facts and sheer personal trumpet blowing. Rampant use of capitalization and bold format words is another unnecessary characteristic of much of the business press releases doing the rounds. The fact is that reporters are usually a suspicious bunch, who are also professional writers and are more likely to be impressed by plain fact. Always keep your focus on answering the question, ‘What is the news here?’