How to compose a press release

A press release is an effective way of getting your information across. Press releases are one of the main tools used in public relations. Use them to manage the image, reputation and credibility of your business. The aim of a press release is not to sell, but to inform. Build public awareness and trust, and sales will follow.

Planning is key

Decide what you want to achieve. Is the press release being written to provide information, a warning or to increase business? There must be a clear aim for what you want to get across.

Decide who your target audience is. National and regional newspapers can be highly influential and have a wide circulation. For local human interest stories, such as staff charity fundraising, a local paper can be of more relevance. Or, if it’s a specialist business story, management magazines and professional journals may be needed. You may even want to gain airtime on the radio.

Does the press release contain invaluable or newsworthy information that will be used by the target audience? The more relevant your story, the more likely it ill be chosen by the journalist to publish, and the better response you will receive from your audience.

What do you want recipients to take away from the press release? Is it encouragement to look out for a new product, an announcement about a new employee at a company, or a notice about an upcoming event? Include the relevant details to ensure that you generate the desired response.

Set the correct tone and structure

  • Content: Ensure that the release is grammatically correct. Check to make sure it doesn’t contain any spelling mistakes or errors. Quote all sources correctly. Remember, you are trying to persuade a busy journalist who get many press releases that yours is the one to use. So make sure it is professional at all times.
  • Clarity: Keep it short and to the point. Don’t over embellish with terms such as ‘amazing’ and ‘radical’. Keep to the truth at all times. Do not over exaggerate or even worse, make up facts that cannot be substantiated. This can damage your reputation beyond recovery if found out. Clear, factual and simple is crucial.

Timing – Be aware of the deadline for submitting the press release and check that it is topical and newsworthy.

What makes a good story?

Before contacting the media with a story you need to identify the most interesting news angle or selling point of your story. Editors are interested in news which is out of the ordinary, exciting and dramatic that will be of interest to their readers. But, be it a fundraising appeal or a new product launch make your point quickly. Editors initially give around 3 seconds of their attention to each potential story.

Magic 8 – what to include:
Short and sweet – aim to get your press release down to six lines in the first paragraph. If a paper decides to use your press release, the first paragraph will be all they have time to read to make that decision. Make your point quickly and create a punchy headline. Make sure you include:

  • Name of your organisation
  • Date
  • Headline – make this short and punchy and summarising the story.

First paragraph – the golden rule for an effective opening paragraph is to make sure that it tells the story in two or three sentences, showing why it’s an interesting news story. Words such as ‘cash boost, launch, extended or improved’ all catch people’s attention.

Second paragraph – explain the key elements of your story, including who, what, why, when, where and how.

Photographs – a good, clear photograph will definitely improve your chances of being published, and is of more interest to a reader. An image speaks a thousand words as they say! A short caption to accompany the photograph is also good to include.

Third paragraph – use this to support your points. Try using quotes from senior influential people relevant to the story, whether independent or company representatives. Use industry statistics and customer survey results too if possible.

Finish your story by encouraging readers to take action. For example, stating where your product can be bought, or giving the contact details or your sales department.

Put the word ‘ends’ at the end of your press release to let journalists know they have all of the text. If your press release is longer than one page, insert the words ‘more’ at the bottom of the first page. As a rule you should aim for between 400 and 500 words maximum.

Notes for Editors – at the end of your press release include a ‘notes to editors’ section. Here you can provide a brief 20 word company description and website address, plus any other technical information or survey results. This is so the Editor can research you further if they decide to use your story. Also include Press Office contact details with the phone number and email address of your press office or the person in charge who can talk more about the story if necessary.

Last words

Press releases should be part of your marketing strategy and are a credible way of communicating your message. As a press release isn’t guaranteed to be published, you need to build up as much of a relationship as possible with the journalists and Editors who makes the decisions. Make sure you are aware of deadlines and meet them, and provide all the information that could be needed. Relevance and persistence are vital. Spend time deciding how you will ‘pitch’ your story to your media contacts, and for press releases from the professionals, get in touch with Marketing Zone. We can help.