5+ tips for writing a press release today
There has been a lot of discussion in the industry lately about the value of press releases. Some say the press release has outlived its usefulness while others defend its relevance. In this debate, I play defense. When used correctly in today’s digital world, the press release has evolved from the one-way information blast Ivy Lee developed in 1906 to an interactive announcement with the ability for dialogue.
1) Always include contact information
Your press release should always have an original header with your contact information and a logo for the organization. Reporters are inundated with press releases every day. If your press release does grab their attention, don’t make them search for how to get in touch with you.
2) Use inverted pyramid style
With all those press releases coming in, media members just don’t have the time or patience to sift through extraneous writing to get to the point. Put the most important information in the first paragraph – the five Ws (who, what, where, when and why) – and scale down from there. Also, if you are lucky enough for an outlet to use your press release verbatim, editors cut from the bottom up. If you’ve buried your key messages in the last paragraphs, they won’t make it.
3) Quote the important people
Quotes can bring a story to life for media consumers and clarify an issue. Find the best subject matter expert for the topic, and use a memorable quote in the press release. This also helps journalists on tight deadlines that may not have the time to conduct a full interview.
4) Provide links
With more people than ever consuming news from online sources and social media becoming the main source of that consumption, press releases must evolve to meet this demand. With most press releases distributed via email today, including links to your organization’s online presence is essential. Reporters are increasingly facing shorter deadlines with shrinking resources, so load your press release with the vital information and make it as easy to use as possible.
5) End with a boilerplate
Boilerplates are the ending paragraph in press releases that reiterates the organization’s purpose. These concluding statements are consistent in all your press releases and should be statements of fact. Boilerplates are your last chance to include a key message.
For an example of a full press release, visit my Services page.
Distribution: When sending your press release, be sure it doesn’t get lost in the mix of the reporter’s already-overflowing inbox. I’ve found that sending press releases in the mornings by 9:30 are received the best. Most outlets have a daily meeting to discuss upcoming events at 10 a.m., so you’re news will be fresh on their minds. Generally, I don’t send press releases on a Monday or Friday. Monday, people are just getting back in from the weekend and trying to weed through a full inbox. Friday, people are just ready to get to the weekend. Don’t send press releases on a weekend unless it’s breaking news. Media outlets operate on skeleton crews on the weekends, and your press release will just be buried.
Follow-up: I typically give a media member two days after I’ve sent a press release to follow-up if I haven’t heard anything back. I’ll give a reporter a call just to make sure they received the press release and if there are any questions I can answer. I will also call the day of the event as a gentle reminder. As a personal pet peeve and the surest way to get on a journalist’s bad list, don’t send an email and immediately call to follow-up. Give them some time.
Press releases are still the bread-and-butter of media relations, but to remain relevant, they must adapt to today’s digital world. What are some ways you have adjusted press releases to meet the demands of online communications?