How to Write a Press Release: Your Step-by-Step Guide

When you think of a press release you probably imagine a news editor, a journalist, or someone working in PR and communications, so the idea of needing to know how to write a good press release might feel like a foreign concept to you. The fact of the matter is that knowing how to write a press release, and a good one for that matter, should be a necessary skill that you possess if you work in any kind of office setting or are entrepreneurial.

How to Write a Press Release

The art of the press release is one that doesn’t take much to acquire, but it does take a lot of practice and experience to master. There are many different ways to write one, depending on the style, the press guidelines of your journalistic practices for your country, and other outstanding factors, but the basic idea is all the same - to express a concise, yet detailed account of information.

How to Write a Press Release: Your Step-by-Step Guide

Writing a press release is not like writing a story, nor is it like writing a summary report. It needs to be a convenient marriage of the two, so here is a helpful step-by-step guide on how to write a press release.

Step 1 - Start With an Attention-Grabbing Headline

As you would with a research paper, an email, a message, website article, or any kind of text-based artifact, you need to begin with an attention-grabbing headline. This doesn’t mean you should stoop down and go for a clickbait-esque headline, it means including relevant information that will hook a reader in right away. Some things to include:

● Specific details (“Ranking of Highest-Earning Degrees by Salary”)

● Active voice

● Short, but relevant

These are three easy reminders when writing any kind of headline for a press release. You cannot be too vague or bland with the information because it will go unnoticed or be discarded in an inbox and it says nothing about what information is contained within the press release. Likewise, attention-grabbing shouldn’t include too many details or the purpose of the press release is null because they’ve gathered everything relevant and can move on.

Step 2 - Get Into the Relevant Details Quickly

On the topic of relevant details, you still want to hit the facts hard and fast. When you are done with the headline, it’s time to move on to the relevant information. This is when you need to let readers know what’s going on. The best way to remember it is from the lesson you were taught about writing any kind of factual report from your school days:

● Who

● What

● Where

● When

● Why

● How

The 5 Ws and 1 H are always essential when it comes to getting into the relevant details of a press release early. You can look at any good press release sample and see how they use this information to get into the meat of the release, and why it is necessary. Again, time is a crucial factor so when you are writing your very own press release, you need to remember that whoever is reading it needs to be able to sift through it quickly so the relevant details have to come quickly.

Step 3 - Finding the Right Quote

Adding context to the information is your next step and is equally as crucial to the entire process. When creating a good press release, a good quote to use is from a key figure. This could be a project lead, a researcher, a spokesperson, a business owner, or an executive. These are good individuals to use a quote for that helps add some depth to the information and is useful for the reader once they get through the details of the press release. Additionally, focus on the one great quote, or two good quotes at most, you aren’t getting a summary from everyone involved. In essence, the quote helps contextual the information by adding a voice behind it.

Step 4 - Pad the Relevant Details With Relevant Background Information

You begin to reach less critical parts of the press release the farther you go because this is where readers start to skim through because they’ve seen the juiciest morsels in the headline, relevant details, and the quotes. From here you can add more context to the information provided above by adding background information.

This doesn’t mean you should just add fluff, because every part of the press release is still very important, but the background information just adds to the overall value of the details above. This could be explaining the history of a product, a company, or an event. That information is not crucial, but it is appreciated because it helps make sure that there is more than just the surface level information available. Keep it relevant and make sure it’s still worthwhile.

Step 5 - Clear and Concise Is Crucial

As a general piece of advice when writing any kind of press release, clear and concise are your go-to steps. They will precede every piece of information you include in this press release, no matter what it is so you must adhere to it. Clear, meaning:

● Grammatically correct

● Spell and error-checked thoroughly

● Singular voice or tone (not shifting between active and passive)

● Avoiding buzzwords and filler terms

Concise, meaning:

● Information is quick to process

● Relevant information comes first

● Does the reader care?

● Easy to sift through

You can see how easy it is to make sure you’re following the basic guideline of making a press release work. It’s a good idea to keep going over it as if you were a reporter reading it impartially, then edit as you find fit. It’s also advised that you send a draft to someone you know (assuming the information isn’t leak-worthy) to get their opinion on it. If you can remember how to easily incorporate those two concepts and what they mean for a press release, you should have an easy time crafting one that is going to be useful for the reader.

Step 6 - Include a Variety of Media Formats

Media types, media formats, mixed media, whatever you want to call it is more important than ever now. People have shorter attention spans, as rude as it is to say, so it’s good to remember that when including data, visuals, and information. Most press releases now need to include a good selection of media types to make sure that people stay interested and the information gets passed along easily. It’s been run into the ground by now, but you need to remember that concise and quick processing of the release is your best friend.

If someone is going to read through a press release in 30 seconds or less, the best way to catch their eye is to make sure that there is a visual edge. Some media formats/types to consider:

● Graphs

● Charts

● Videos

● Infographics

● Photos

Creating a press release that is just walls of text will not be appealing, especially if the audience is younger. Any good press release needs to understand the context of the information and how to apply it properly in the formatting. It’s much easier to find data on percentages of gender distributed jobs in a graph then tucking it away in the text. Don’t go overboard with the media, because sometimes text works better in certain instances as well.

Step 7 - Using Lead Time Well

Now that your press release is coming along, you want to start considering the distribution process. This can be simple or it can be tough, but it’s good to learn about lead time. We live in a 24-hour news cycle which means stories are being reported on and thrown away in record time, so for your press release, you need to give a reporter ample time to go over it, find the relevant data, and be able to write up their report.

You will most likely want to distribute your press release 24 hours ahead of time knowing that the reporter is going to be going over a lot of other emails and releases, so this gives them time to get to your and do their work. For press releases with sensitive information that you don’t want to be leaked, there are things called short embargos that can specify a time in which you would like the information to be released.

Step 8 - Distributing Your Press Release

Now that you’re ready to distribute your press release you need to narrow your emailing list down. It might seem like the best way to catch someone’s eye is to simply bombard inboxes, but this can alienate you as writers and reporters might find you annoying and overbearing. The best piece of advice is to research relevant reporters and writers in the industry in which your press release is about (tech, health, and wellness, finance, etc.) and send the press release to them, directly.

Why directly? Well, another reason is that sending these press releases to the editors, editor-in-chief, or a generic email of their publication won’t result in much of anything for you. It’s always a good idea to find out who at the publication would be the most interested in this work from you so you can get it to them directly. Send one press release as well, don’t be annoying, and send multiple emails or copies.

Step 9 - Sharing the Distribution

If your press release is picked up and you start getting press, you can start sharing your distribution of that press. What this means is you can start self-advertising, in short. Having this release picked up and used in publications means you can capitalize on your little bit of personal success. Share the work on your social media, retweet the stories, pin headlines. Another good idea is to add logos of publications on any site of yours to add some legitimacy and show off your hard-earned work. There’s nothing wrong with little self-congratulation, especially in journalism.

Step 10 - Formatting

Formatting isn’t intended to be a footnote of the step-by-step guide, but it’s also not something to get overly worked up about either, which is why you’re finding it here at the end. Formatting is always important, just like any written work. Here are the main types of press releases:

● General News Release

● Awards

● Grand Opening

● Product Update or New Product Launch

● Mergers or Acquisitions

● New Partnerships 

● Rebranding

● Promotions or Hirings (Executive)

● Events

These are going to be the main types of press releases you will likely be writing, and they all have the same general type of formatting. You shouldn’t get too hung up on the formatting itself. Instead, you should be focusing on the relevant details that were mentioned earlier, but here is the basic layout that any press release needs to have:

● Headline

● Dateline

● Introduction

● Body

● Boilerplate

● Call To Action

● Media Contact Details

Certain press bodies have their press release formats. The AP (Associated Press), CP (Canadian Press), AAP (Australian Associated Press), AFP (Agence France-Presse) are all news agencies that often have their type of formatting that they use. Again, this isn’t something to stress too much over, as long as you can follow the basic rundown of elements like the headline, dateline, etc. In fact, it’s often a good idea to flex the formatting to make it more appealing, depending on the type of release/industry you’re writing for.

Writing a press release sounds like some fancy journalistic process, but in reality, just about anyone can do it with the right information. When you skim through this step-by-step guide you start to understand that a lot of the basic principles of writing any kind of story or coverage is that you need to be clear, concise, focus on relevant details, and get them to the reader fast. Without fail, those principles will help you craft your very own press release, and this guide will hopefully serve as a useful reference point as well.

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