Got some news to share? While fast-moving social media platforms have revolutionised the way we share and discover news, press releases still play an important role in PR.
A clearly-written and compelling press release that conforms to industry best practices is a good way to get the latest events at your business under the noses of people who can make a big noise about it, whether you’re targeting local, trade or national press.
Objective, informative and engaging, press releases are designed to make it as easy as possible for the media to share news about your brand. And because media outlets will often quote wholesale from your press release, getting one written professionally means you shape the way people talk about your business.
That’s good news all round.
Want to know more about press release copywriting? Check the questions below or drop me a line for more information.
Press Release Copywriting FAQs
What is a press release?
A press release, sometimes referred to a press statement or media release, is a written document sent to media outlets such as newspapers, magazines, radio stations, websites and TV stations in order to share information about a (hopefully!) newsworthy event.
Who needs press releases?
It’s not so much a case of ‘needing’ press releases as benefitting from them, and the answer is: “every business”. You might not need a press release very often but, at one point or another, every successful business is likely to have something newsworthy to share with the local community, people in their industry, or even a national – or international – audience.
Sending out a press release means that media outlets are informed about events at your business, and given the story right from the horse’s mouth, so to speak, so they’re great for PR.
When should I not send a press release?
When trying to decide what is press release worthy, it’s important to be honest with yourself. While every business understandably wants to drum up as much PR clout as possible, there’s no point sending out press releases that aren’t newsworthy.
Pointless press releases are more than likely to get binned. If you send regular uninteresting releases to the same media outlets, you may simply be marked as a spammer. And, if your sub-standard release does get published (every media outlet has a slow news day once in a while), it will either get lost among ‘real’ news or frame your business in an unflattering light.
How do I know when a press release is appropriate?
Press releases are written to be read, and media outlets rely on the quality of their content to maintain a loyal readership. So, your press release needs to be of good quality.
Make sure what you’re writing is press release worthy by asking yourself the following questions:
1. Am I sharing new information?
2. Are there any particular points of interest?
3. Is this of interest to people outside my business?
4. Will anyone actually care?
If you answer ‘no’ to any of those questions, it’s likely your press release subject matter isn’t all that newsworthy – not everything is. Hang fire until you’ve got something to shout about rather than trying to drum up interest where there may well be none.
How to write a good press release
No matter what industry you’re in, and what you’re writing about, there are a few things you can do to make sure your press release hits the right note.
1) As above, make sure your story is newsworthy – if you’ve got nothing to work with, you’re fighting a losing battle. News-desks are experienced in spotting meaningless fluff, no matter how beautifully written, so make sure you’ve got something to say.
2) Give your press release an engaging, informative headline. While it might be tempting to flex your writing muscles and come up with some pun-laden headline that should be up for a Pulitzer, the aim is to let the person reading your press release know what it’s about.
3) Get right to the point. The first line of your press release should summarise what it’s about in no more than about 20 words – journalists receive numerous releases every single day, so let them know what’s interesting about yours. A good tip is to try and include as many of the ‘five Ws’ in your opening line as possible – that’s who, what, where, when and why.
4) Don’t waffle: ideally, your press release should be no more than 400 words long – about one side of A4. If you’ve got extra, relevant, information on your business – say, history, background info – you can include this in a Notes to Editors section at the bottom, which can run over onto a second page.
5) Use quotes appropriately: while it’s tempting to draft quotes that consist of extra information about your company, it’s not an effective strategy. Quotes are there to give insight and opinion, not meaningless soundbites, so include something of interest or prepare to see it cut out.
What should I write in the subject line when emailing a press release?
Most journalists will find themselves on hundreds of press release mailing lists, so it’s fair to say your press release will be competing for attention. And while it might seem like a good idea to make it stand out from the crowd with a witty or imaginative email subject line, the fact is, journalists want you to make their lives easier.
A simple, concise subject line is most effective. Tell your recipient what you’re sending them (“Press release”) and what it’s about: a few words, clearly summarising the important point of your story.
Who should press releases be sent to?
While it may be tempting to play a numbers game with press releases, doing your research and mailing it only to the right people is a far savvier strategy. And to find out who those ‘right people’ are, you need to ask yourself two questions:
- Who would want to publish my press release?
- Who would want to read my press release?
Answering these two questions honestly will help you to work out which publications are good bets for your release by making sure that the story you’re sharing fits with their typical content and their target audience.
Once you’ve identified the best publications to share your story with, you’ll want to make sure you send it to the right person in house. Use Google – or make a quick call – to find out who that is.
Why should I end my press release with ‘###’?
Way back when, wire transcript services would use special characters to clearly show where a press release ended: for whatever reason, this ended up being ‘###’.
Nowadays, there’s no pressing reason to include this ‘end of content marker’ but it’s a nice touch and it shows you know what you’re doing when it comes to writing press releases. An alternative approach is to capitalise, bold up, and centre-align the word ‘END’. Pretty clear!
How long should a press release be?
Press releases should be an exercise in concision; they should be no more than 400 words (about one side of A4).
If your press release is pushing the 400-word mark and you still have more to say, check for unnecessary filler text and cut it out. Some information that is relevant to your business but not the story itself (e.g. company background, history etc.) can be chopped out and included in the Notes to Editors section at the bottom.