Susan Shelby, FSMPS, CPSM President & CEO Rhino PR
What is a press release?
Quite simply, a press release is a compelling written news story sent to members of the media in order to share information that you hope they, in turn, will share with their readers. Consider sending a press release if your news fits the following categories:
- Company news, such as a new product or service, new hires or promotions, or new office
- Project milestones, such as a new win, groundbreaking, topping off or ribbon cutting
- Industry recognition, such as winning a design award
TIP: We recommend setting a goal of issuing one press release per month to provide a steady flow of news.
Why should I write a press release?
Credibility: Unlike paid advertising, direct mail and other communications vehicles, editorial placements are vetted by a neutral third party (the media), which lends credibility to your news and expertise.
Editorial Opportunities: Crafting a great press release also provides a perfect opportunity to reach out directly to an editor to pitch story ideas and is often the first step in securing a feature article or positioning your company as a potential source for an upcoming article.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO): While Google is on to those who purposely build links into their press releases, you may be able to get some SEO value if your press release is picked up by various media outlets. When they do, you will earn back links, site authority, and referral traffic. You may notice your firm’s search rankings increase, especially when you also distribute your release via social media channels such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube.
TIP: Think about why you are writing a press release before issuing it to be sure a press release is the right communications vehicle. For example, we don’t recommend issuing a press release about a speaking presentation but it would make a great e-blast.
How do I write a press release?
First and foremost, be sure you have a compelling story to tell. This is where the goals of journalists and brand communicators intersect: Companies have a story to tell, and the media needs to tell a story. However, before you start writing, ask yourself the following questions:
- Why am I sending this release?
- What message do I want to get across?
- Who am I writing for?
- Is it really newsworthy?
Once you’ve answered these questions – and after you’ve carefully considered #4 – you can begin writing. The more you understand how a journalist thinks, the more likely you will be to deliver something he or she is looking for. Think as creatively as possible to give them an ‘angle’ and catch their attention. Below are structural elements common to all press releases:
- Headline – Pulls in the reader; keep it short, sweet and to the point.
- Sub–title – Allows you to provide additional information to support the headline.
- Dateline – Contains the release date and originating city.
- Introduction – Gives basic answers to who, what, when, where and why; every important point should be addressed in the first paragraph.
- Body – Provides further explanation, statistics, background, and other relevant details. Generally, the body consists of four to five paragraphs and does not exceed two pages.
- Quote – Offers a human element.
- Boilerplate – Gives a short background on the issuing company and typically includes a link to the company’s website.
- Contact information – Lists a name, telephone number, and email address of the primary person handling media inquiries, should the journalist have additional questions.
- Close – Lets the reader know the release is finished by inserting “###” or [END] after the boilerplate and media contact information.
After you have finished drafting the release, you will need to seek the required approvals, including any clients mentioned or quoted. This process can take days, weeks or even months depending on how many parties are involved, so plan accordingly. Once everyone has had a chance to weigh in and give their approval, you are ready to issue your release.
TIP: Make your release grammatically flawless. Proofread – and let other people proofread as well – before sending it out.
Who should I send it to?
Instead of blasting a press release out to every journalist you can find an email address for, focus on select journalists who have experience covering your industry. Make sure you understand the writers and editors you’re sending it to by reading past stories that reporter has written to get a feel for what they cover. For greater national impact, consider issuing the press release on a wire service where it will get pick-up on hundreds of news aggregate web sites.
TIP: Choose your media list carefully. Identify editors and reporters who would be most interested in what you have to say and confirm the publication accepts press releases. Some publications have a general email address for press releases. For example, firstname.lastname@example.org reaches all of the editors at High-Profile Monthly.
Go beyond just a release
The text of your completed release can be repurposed into a number of marketing vehicles. Why not turn the information into a case study to post on your website? How about a blog post about your news nugget? Or grab the most interesting pieces of news and create a series of tweets? If your release has been picked up, share the story on LinkedIn. The life of a press release is long, so craft a carefully thought out, properly formatted, flawlessly written, and precisely targeted press release to get your firm’s message out across multiple channels.