How to write a press release
A press release is a brief, newsworthy text published for building image and reputation rather than sales and marketing purposes and contains information, supported by data about the activities, strategies and events of an organization or individual. Press releases used to share business or corporate news with press members enable your activities to be confirmed in a way.
How Should a Press Release Be Composed?
The first paragraph of the press release provides answers to the 5W1H questions of (W)ho, (W)hat, (W)hen, (W)here, (W)hy and H(ow), if applicable. The headline idea is definitely stated in the introduction paragraph, which should be written in such a way that if the journalist used only the first paragraph, your entire message is comprehended.
Here are some tips on writing a press release copy:
- The key message is clearly stated in the headline of the press release to capture the journalists’ attention. If necessary, the subject can be elaborated in a sub-headline.
- The journalist who seeks more information moves on to second and third paragraphs of the press release. The subject is explained in more detail in these paragraphs, which form the body of the press release and may also include a quotation by a company representative.
- The final paragraph, called an archive, contains further information on the subject. Historical information about the event, similar events, other information about the organization, brand or the event are provided in this section.
- If the company boiler plate or detailed information about an event, such as date, place, time, etc. is to be used, they can be shared at the end of the press release in a separate section or box.
The Structure of Press Release
A press release typically consists of four parts: Headline, lead paragraph, second and third paragraphs, and a background or about section.
- In order for a press release to stand out among countless e-mails that a journalist or editor receives every day, the subject should be communicated in a compelling headline, and also included in the lead paragraph. A great press release should provide answers to the who, what, where, when, why, and how questions already in the lead paragraph. Please remember that members of the media rarely have the time or available space to always cover your news stories extensively. Therefore the answer to the question, “If an editor uses only the lead paragraph of this press release, would the story lose its newsworthiness?” must be considered when constructing the text. So anything that must definitely be included in the news story and not get cut by the editor should be in the lead paragraph.
- The second and third paragraphs should include detailed information, participants or attendees, if any, and purpose. If the journalist or editor wants more information about the news story, these are the two paragraphs they would check. If celebrities and top executives, etc. are involved, their names should be mentioned in the lead paragraph.
- If the press release will be sent prior to an event to attract members of the media or the target audience, the invitation message should be communicated in the third paragraph. The event’s date, time, venue and contact information should be placed in a small, separate box at the very end of the release.
- The background section provides additional information such as the history, similar events, organizations or details about the situation. You may think of this as a section included to refresh the memory of the journalist or editor.
Spelling and Grammar Rules for Press Releases
The press release should definitely be written with correct grammar and without any spelling mistakes. Sending a press release that would not create extra work for editors would increase the likelihood of the release to be published. A copy with spelling mistakes and bad grammar is usually not preferred by the media. The headline should be explanatory and compelling. Headlines should not be long, instead they should be kept to one sentence and summarize the subject. The first letter of all words in the headline should be capitalized but all upper case letters should not be used.
- The sub-headline should not refer to the name of the product or organization. A sub-headline strengthened by numbers and ratios is usually considered important by journalists. Content based on data is always regarded more newsworthy.
- Commonly used fonts should be preferred as typefaces and italics or a different style should not be necessary to highlight certain words or sections. Furthermore, the font should not be too large.
- The use of sub-headlines in press releases facilitates reading. These sub-headlines can be used as reference, especially in the sections where data is mentioned.
- The name of the product or organization should be used as little as possible. We should remember that the press release is not an advertisement. No publisher would want to promote a product directly.
- Capitalization rules apply exactly for press releases. While job titles start with a capital letter, extra attention should be paid to how they are written. Words such as marketing director, human resources manager and sales manager that indicate status should not be capitalized.
- When needed, acronyms and abbreviations may be used in a manner not to disrupt reading. Acronyms should be preferred when using corporate names. For instance, writing THY instead of Turkish Airlines makes it easier for the reader. For acronyms and abbreviations that are not familiar to everyone, providing their meaning within parentheses every time the abbreviation is used should be avoided; instead explaining it the first time it is mentioned will suffice.
- When needed in the press release, numbers must be written out except for general spelling and grammar rules, and for numbers larger than, numerals should be used. Dates, percentages, price and data should be stated in numerals and not written out. For example, “one in ten people” should not be written as “1 in 10 people”. Similarly, “7%” should not be used as “seven %”.
- Dating the press release is an important issue. The date in the upper right corner of the bulletin also provides clarity as it can create convenience in the archives. Use of probable dates such as next Friday or in a few days, etc. should be avoided as well.
- Care should be taken about the length of the press release and it should not be too long or too short. When it is short, it may not be considered newsworthy and therefore not published. It may not be as serious a problem when it’s too long however since you have explained the content at length, the journalist may crop the text, in which case it might lose its meaning. To be more precise, the ideal number of words in the press releases should be between 350 and 500 words. The sub-headline should not exceed 90 words.
- In the final section of the press release, details such as a phone number must be added for journalists to contact for any issues or questions. The name, surname and email address of the contact person should also be included.
Press Release Language
Writing and releasing a press release can help your business gain valuable PR. The most important issue to consider in writing a press release is its newsworthiness. The simplest formula used to ensure this is 5W1H. A text that can answer questions of what, where, why, when, who and how would prove to be newsworthy.
There may be different issues in ensuring newsworthiness. While this is related to the content of the news, a concrete subject, supported by data, may go to waste because of mistakes in the writing style.
- In the press release, the headline should be short and compelling, and the sub-headline should summarize the entire message. The first paragraph or the sub-headline of the press release copy should not include details but provide context for the rest of the content.
- The press release should be written in journalistic style, not in everyday language. Words of praise and generalizations should be avoided in the press release. The press release must follow the objectivity of journalistic principles.
- The press release should be brief, simple and easily understandable, regardless of the literacy level of the target audience. Use of long sentences, complex terminology and foreign words should be avoided.
- Particular attention should be paid to the writing style because a mistake can lead to the perception of the press release as an ad copy, costing it the chance to be published.
How not to write a press release?
First of all, press releases should not be addressed to the consumer, used to promote something or include advertising content. Furthermore, expressions such as the best, the most, etc. should not be preferred if possible. But if it is necessary, the claim should be verified.
Ambiguity should be avoided, as should jargon, slang or slogan-like terms. You should also refrain from itemizing. Make your headline appealing but leave it to the journalist or editor to come up with a creative, compelling headline of their own.