A good marketing strategy has many moving parts, one of which involves PR and marketing teams working together to make announcements and share company news. The most common way of doing this is by creating press releases.
Just like other parts of your marketing strategy, press releases are important pieces of content for building your brand, earning media coverage, and telling your company’s story.
Of course, just going through the motions of creating press releases for their own sake isn’t going to be effective. It’s important to understand the role they play and to craft them so that they entice the audience and command attention.
Use this guide to learn how to power up your press releases so that they serve as a component to strengthen your overall integrated marketing strategy.
What is a press release?
The basic idea of a press release is to send out a newsworthy bulletin aimed at journalists and people in your industry to tell them about something your company is doing. For example, it might be about a product launch, a new corporate hire, or a piece of research that you’re releasing. Other press releases could be about new partnerships, company accolades, or even to put out fires if the company becomes involved in some type of controversy.
What is the format of a press release?
No matter what your press release is about, the basic structure will be the same. Think of it like a newspaper story, which uses an inverted pyramid so that the most important information is at the top, followed by the details. You’ll start with an informative headline, and the date and location. Then, the first paragraph is your main announcement (the who, what, when, where, why, how), followed up with supporting information/details and relevant quotes from company leaders. The last section is your company boilerplate. It’s also a good idea to include a media contact somewhere on the release (typically found at the bottom of the article or a panel on the right-hand side) so that interested parties can get in touch for further information or commentary.
How long should a press release be?
Your intention is to garner media attention, so the last thing you want to do is bore reporters with a long press release. Grab their attention right up front, and then try to keep the main body copy to just a few paragraphs that contain the pertinent details. If it were to be printed, it shouldn’t go past one page.
A step-by-step guide to writing a press release
Now that you have the basic framework of the format of a press release and how to structure one, let’s get into the specifics.
Step 1: Determine what the main message of your press release should be.
Your press release should be focused on one main announcement, such as your company being recognized on a “Best Company” list.
Step 2: Craft a headline and a one-sentence summary.
Much like a mission statement used in a creative brief, aim for a direct, attention-grabbing statement over flowery language or generalities.
Example: Apple introduces Apple Arcade — the world’s first game subscription service for mobile, desktop and the living room.
Step 3: Start the article off with a bang.
Give the most crucial elements of your announcements in the first paragraph. Be sure to include the “why” so that your readers understand why your release is important and relevant to them at that moment in time.
Step 4: Add some color.
Once all of the facts are laid out, you can get into the supporting details (think bullet points and/or statistics), and colorful quotes from your company leaders. Try not to be too sales-y, however. Treat it more like a news story rather than a company advertisement.
Step 5: Finish it off with some final touches.
End with your boilerplate information (a brief description of your company), and how to get in touch for more information.
How often should you send out press releases?
The short answer to this question is: as often as necessary. Don’t look for reasons to send out press releases just because you think you need to issue one. Instead, share important news as it happens. Remember, press releases are not a company newsletter with mundane updates – they should be treated as important bulletins to announce that something of note is happening or is about to happen.
Press release templates: should you use them?
You might be wondering — what are the pros and cons to using a template for your press releases?
Templates can certainly make life easier when creating press releases since they generally follow the same formula. The purpose of a template is that you can follow it and plug in the specific information so that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time you start a new press release. If that’s you’re use case, then by all means.
However, be mindful not to fall into the trap of relying so much on a press release template that your releases feel like they are forced and repetitive. Each one should stand on its own and have a natural flow.
Where can you find free press release templates?
Ideally, once you’ve written a couple of successful press releases, you can create your own in-house press release template. But before you get to that point, there is nothing wrong with looking online for some tried-and-true press release templates to guide you.
There are various press release templates online for you to check out. Or, you might try reading some press release samples from your favorite brands and creating a model based on what you like.
Should you have multiple templates for different situations where a press release is needed?
Because there are different reasons for sending out press releases, you should definitely have a few templates. You can use one template for your events, another for product launches, and another for if your company acquires another firm. Each of these will be slightly different in nature. For instance, if you’re partnering with another company, your template would need to have space to include quotes and boilerplates from both companies.
How to submit and distribute press releases
Writing a great press release is the most important part of the process, but it’s also vital that you know how to distribute it to maximize its impact.
There are a couple of different methods for distributing your press release. First, you might blast it out to your email list of editors and media that you have relationships with. You may even choose to personalize this outreach on a case-by-case basis.
Of course, your own website’s press release section, as well as your LinkedIn profile page and other social media platforms are also great places to post your business announcements. You might even consider pinning social posts that link to your press release to the top of your page (i.e. LinkedIn, Twitter) so that it’s easily found.
What are some of the best online outlets for distributing press releases?
If you’re looking for a wider reach, you’ll likely want to use press release wire services like PRNewswire or BusinessWire. Distribution services do have a cost, but they can help your press release get discovered by a larger number of readers as well as search engines.
How can you ensure your press release gets the widest possible distribution?
No matter which channels of dissemination you choose (and it’s likely you will use a combination of tactics), you can get the widest distribution by following a couple of best practices:
- Time it right. Timing is everything when it comes to press releases. Yours might be timely in that it announces something that happens on a specific date. Others might be tied to calendar events like holiday sales, seasonal launches, or pop culture moments. If you move too early, reporters on a deadline might push your release to the back burner. But if you wait too long, you could end up becoming yesterday’s news. You should also consider the time of day and where your audience is located.
- Consider lead time. Don’t forget to think about your target audience: the media. What is their lead time? If you’re pitching trade publications in print, you’ll have to issue releases a few months ahead of time, whereas online bloggers only need a few days or sometimes a few hours to pull together a story about your release. Naturally, not all of your press releases will make sense issued months in advance, but if you know your CEO’s book comes out around the same time as the fall issue of your industry’s top trade magazine, you might not want to wait on that.
- Put yourself in the reporter’s shoes. You want to make their lives easier by providing them with a press release that is newsworthy and something they want to cover. In other words, make sure you are providing a great story, not just fluff, and include statistics, photos, and other assets if you can to sweeten the pot. And, especially crucial, make sure you do a spelling and grammar check before you hit send.
Writing great press releases takes practice, but you can fast track your success by following these best practices:
- Bookmark any great press releases you come across so that they can serve to inspire.
- Use templates as guides to help you and to stay focused.
- Write your press releases like a news story, not like an ad.
- Use clean, concise, and clever prose to get your message across, and give the media something worth reporting about.
- Distribute your press release using a variety of channels to reach a broad audience, but also take time to send personalized messages to key journalists and reporters on your radar.