Writing and Formatting Tips for News Releases

Tips for an effective press release

Most people working in PR and marketing have written a press release or two.  And while writing press releases may be familiar territory for many, knowing how to make them effective—from writing to sending, and everything in between—can still be a little baffling.

Here are some tips to keep in mind when writing, optimizing and distributing your press release.  We also help you determine what kind of news is really newsworthy.


Writing

  • Write in third person; don’t say “I” or “we” unless you’re using it in a direct quote.
  • Consider the reader’s perspective; why should they care and what makes your news special?
  • Be brief if you can; one page, or 400-500 words, is best.
  • Get to the point upfront and clearly; don’t lose a reader’s attention from the start because she or he can’t figure out what the release is about.
  • Avoid sales-pitch language and tons of adjectives, both which lose credibility in the eyes of readers.
  • Keep your own opinions out of it.
  • Write without using a lot of industry jargon; don’t assume that everyone who’s reading it will know what you’re talking about.
  • Proofread!  Do your own careful review to avoid costly errors.


Optimizing

  • Identify and use keywords that searchers are likely to use when searching for news like yours.
  • Use appropriate keywords in the headline and body of your release, but don’t overstuff. Remember, search engines are known to change the rules when it comes to using keywords, so make sure you follow the most current search engine guidelines.
  • Create multimedia elements and link your release to them, such as a YouTube video or a series of images.
  • Make sure to post your release on your own website, too, and link back to it from within the release content.

 

Distributing

  • Email the release yourself to your targeted media.
  • Pick up the phone to follow up; a human touch is sometimes the key difference between a release that gets missed because of a spam filter, and a release that gets noticed.
  • Understand the nature of your news.  Is it a big deal, worthy of being distributed nationwide over the wire?  Or is it better suited for online-only distribution?
  • Consider both the media and consumers when it comes to timing, and find out from media sources what their cutoff times are for receiving news.
  • Feature-length stories generally need more time to develop (a month or two).

 

OK, so that’s all great, but just what, exactly, is considered newsworthy these days?  Online news sites and search engines have made it easier for anyone’s news to grow legs, but what if you really do want to make an impact?  Try answering these questions when you sit down to write your next press release:

  • Is your angle different from other similar stories and/or does it offer a unique perspective?
  • Does your message contain new information, even if it’s about an older subject?
  • Can your message bring light to a problem or issue, or, conversely, provide a resolution to a problem or issue?
  • Does your message carry emotional weight with bloggers and other readers?
  • Does your message involve or quote a famous or high-powered person?
  • Does your message impact the geographical location or environment of the reader base?

If you can affirm your story with one or some of the above, you’ve likely got a newsworthy topic in hand.

Format for a press release

Press releases tend to follow a standard format as it makes it easier for readers to get the details they need in an efficient way.  But before you can just churn one out, you need to do a little prep work.

As you start to write your press release, come up with the creative angle first.  Take off your sales hat and think about it from the reader’s perspective:  why should I care, and what makes it special?  Once you have your angle, then state the facts which support the news as objectively as possible.  This will help give your press release the right tone and allow you to fit it more easily into the accepted format.

The standard press release format includes the following:

  1. Headline:  brief attention-grabbing statement summarizing the news.
  2. Subhead (optional):  secondary statement(s) which builds on the headline and further fleshes out the message.
  3. Dateline:  the city where the news is originating and the date of the release.
  4. Lead or introductory paragraph:  first paragraph of the release which generally answers the who, what, when, where and why questions; in other words, the facts.
  5. Body:  additional paragraphs which provide supporting material and further details (i.e., direct quotes, relevant background information, statistics, etc.).
  6. Boilerplate:  short paragraph giving information about the issuing company or organization.
  7. Source:  the company or organization issuing the release.
  8. Media contact information:  at minimum, the name, phone number and email address for the PR or media relations contact who can answer any questions about the release.

Why should I send a press release?

Sending a press release attracts attention from the media to your company or client, and provides publicity for the product, service or event that you’re marketing.

For businesses, a press release goes one step further by acting as a direct “touch” to consumers, which can help generate more sales.

Because of this, the Web plays an important role in who has access to press releases.  And also begs the question:  With the popularity of viral marketing techniques and the widespread use of social media to get your message out there, why would a seemingly old-fashioned PR tool like the press release still be used?

There’s no denying that press releases serve a purpose when distributed directly to journalists over the wire.  Press releases get sent to the attention of assignment editors at newspapers, television and radio stations, magazines, trade publications and other news outlets, and follow a specific format designed to work well within this type of news generation system (see “Format for a press release”).

However, your audience is likely comprised of more than just the media.  That’s why newswire services (such as PR Newswire) also post press releases online, where they get indexed by Google and other major search and news engines and can then be found not only by the media, but also by the general public.  That’s why traditional wire distribution and online posting both work to increase the reach of a press release.

And by offering budget-friendly Web-only distribution options, PR Newswire has made it easier for small businesses, especially, to send their messages to a wider audience, getting in front of both journalists and consumers, and making their news searchable online.

Types of press releases

While press releases tend to follow the same basic format (see “Format of a press release”), how they are written depends on what kind of news is being announced.  Many online PR resources recognize the following six types of press releases:

  • General news:  announce a general news item to create interest and earn exposure for the company or organization issuing the release.  Example headline:  “ABC Company Wins Customer Service Award Three Years in a Row.”
  • Launch:  create buzz around the launch of a company, website, campaign or initiative.  Example:  “The Launch of ABC Company’s Campaign for Education Coincides with National Teacher’s Day.”
  • Product:  give details and specs for a new product, and accompany with photos whenever possible.  A product press release can also relate to a product recall, or a new or upgraded product version.  Example headline:  “New Software Application by ABC Company Available in August.”
  • Executive or staff announcement:  announce staff changes, especially in upper management or at the executive level, and include biographical information and photos.  Example headline:  “Vice President of Operations Named at ABC Company.”
  • Expert positioning:  showcase a company or organization’s individuals as go-to experts for the media.  Or focus on a report, statistics or results to show expertise of the company as a whole on certain topics or industry trends.  Example headline:  “ABC Company’s Vice President of Operations, Abby Brown, Talks Logistics within the Ever-Changing Software World.”
  • Event:  outline the who, what, when, where and why of an event with the goal that the media will talk about it and/or attend themselves.  Example headline:  “ABC Company’s Annual Golf Tournament for Local Schools to Take Place on Friday, June 7.”

Here are some other press release types:  local human interest stories, problem-solving tips, community events, tradeshow and conference attendance, feature stories, people profiles and book reviews.

How to submit a press release with iReach

Submitting your press release online with iReach is simple. 

Go to ireach.prnewswire.com.  If you’re a returning user, login to your account as normal and proceed with your order.  If you’re new to the service, click the “Choose a Plan to Get Started” button.

When determining where to send your press release, consider your goals and budget: 

  • Are you primarily concerned with your release showing up on major search and news engines as well as posting on PRNewswire.com? 
  • Or would you like to expand your reach by posting on even more websites? 
  • Do you have a compelling image to send with your release? 
  • Or is your announcement big enough that you’d like that image to be seen by more than just your online audience? 

iReach’s distribution options start with a basic, budget-friendly plan (SearchReach) and build from there (WebReach and WebReach Plus).  Check out the plan comparison page for details about what’s included with each one.

Click the “Start With” button associated with your chosen plan and continue with the ordering process: 

  1. Fill out the order form to include account holder information, the text of your press release, an uploaded image if you have one, any add-on services and industry and subject targeting
  2. Click “Next Step:  Preview” to preview your release or make further edits
  3. When you’re satisfied with your release, click “Next Step:  Payment” to pay for, confirm and submit your order.  (If you don't already have an account, you will be asked to fill out a short registration form before submitting your order.)

Once you’ve submitted your order, your registration and press release will be checked for content acceptability.  iReach and PR Newswire maintain their reputations as credible news delivery services by adhering to acceptable content guidelines.

iReach requires up to one business day turnaround from the time your release is submitted.  After the editorial process is complete, your release will either be sent immediately or on the date and time you specified when ordering.

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