How to Write a Press Release that Gets Published

Press release writing

If you’re looking to get media coverage for your business, being able to write an effective press release is an essential skill. If you’re going to get the attention of writers and editors whose inboxes are constantly jammed, your copy needs to offer something the others don’t.

Here are a few things to consider when crafting your next press release.

Is it really news?

If your story isn’t newsworthy, it isn’t going to get published. A great press release is one that contains something readers won’t have heard before; something new, exclusive or unusual.

One thing you should really ask yourself when generating ideas for press releases is: will anybody care? Think about what interests you in the news, look at the headlines your target publications are sharing. Is this idea really interesting, or is it only interesting to people within your business? If your answer is the latter, hold fire until something better comes up.

It’s important to remember that different publications usually represent different viewpoints, so what feels like a great idea for The Guardian might not fit so well on the Daily Mail, and vice versa. It may be that you have an exclusive announcement that will be of interest to everyone. If that’s the case make sure you send different versions of your release, edited to suit each publisher’s angle.

What’s the hook?

You’ve decided that your idea is newsworthy. Great! So what’s the hook? You’re going to need a killer headline, followed by an opening paragraph that contains the key whos, whats, wheres and whys journalists are looking for.

Maybe you’ve got some data from a new piece of research that hasn’t been published before, showing an unexpected statistic. Perhaps there’s a pop culture anniversary on the horizon and you’ve found a brilliant human interest story that ties in with it.

Whatever the hook is, make it clear right from the start. Your press releases are going into the busy inboxes of busy people and if the story isn’t obvious in the opening sentences it’s likely the rest of your work won’t get read at all.

Writing guide

Only include quotes that add value

Any quotes you include should offer fresh insight, and should be succinct. Keep the majority of the information as part of the body of your text and leave the quote itself for human insight. Try to filter out any technical language that might not be understood by people from outside the industry.

If you’re unable to get an original, exclusive quote for your piece, it’s worth digging to find existing quotes you can reference that haven’t been widely distributed before. Quotes can form tag lines and pull-out bold copy and offer journalists a way to break a story into natural sections, as well as being an easy way to back up your claims.

If you’re writing a human interest piece it’s important to confirm that your subject is happy to be contacted for further comment by anyone who does decide to run with the story.

Stick to the point

It’s really important to keep a clear focus and not indulge in excessive wording. Press releases should only be 300-400 words long, and can be broken up with subheadings and bullet points to help key figures and statistics stand out.

One common rookie error is to include an introduction to the company the release is coming from at the start of the piece. This is guaranteed to stop anyone from reading on. If you’re going to include a company bio it’s best to do so after you’ve told your story, in a separate section below the text.

When it comes to the layout of your release, stick to the ‘inverted pyramid’:

Inverted pyramid

  • The big news comes first. Your opening paragraph should only be a couple of sentences long, and should explain exactly what your story is about and what your findings are.
  • Next up is context. Why is this story important and why should people care about it? Here, you can tell the tale in more detail.
  • Finally, further information. Include quotes and background details. By this point in your press release, the who, what, where, when and why should all be ticked off.

Take the same care with your outreach emails

You could write the most fascinating press release there ever was, but it won’t go anywhere if you send it out with a boring or badly-written outreach email. Your email should be no more than two short paragraphs long. Like your release, the hook needs to be apparent as soon as it’s opened.

Bear in mind that many of the recipients could be viewing your email on their mobiles, and think about how your subject line and opening sentence will look on a small screen. Do they know what the hook is? Are they likely to read on?

If you’re confident they’ll open your email, get straight to the point once they have. Consider putting the headline or focus statistic/story element in bold so that it’s immediately visible, and bullet point any key information that you think will grab attention.

Key points to remember

  • Find a story that is new, exclusive or unusual
  • Know the hook, and make it clear
  • Use quotes for insight, not information
  • Keep the content succinct
  • Be prepared to adapt releases to suit different publications
  • Refer to all of the above when writing your outreach emails, too
About Mohit Tater

Mohit is the co-founder and editor of Entrepreneurship Life, a place where entrepreneurs, start-ups, and business owners can find wide ranging information, advice, resources, and tools for starting, running, and growing their businesses.

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