A press release is a brief but newsworthy text published with the aim of enhancing the image or reputation of a person or entity, rather than for sales and marketing purposes. The press release format is straightforward. Press releases typically contain information, supported by data, about events and/or strategies related to a particular subject. News releases are sent out through a distribution service with the aim of attracting media coverage or raising awareness about a news story. They are relatively easy to write, especially if one adheres to the following press release template.
How Should a Press Release Be Composed?
The first paragraph of a press release should provide answers to all the ‘5W1H’ questions (if applicable): who, what, when, where, why and how. The primary message should be stated in the introductory paragraph so that if a journalist uses only the first paragraph, this message will be adequately conveyed.
Factors to consider:
- The key message should be clearly stated in the headline of the press release so as to capture the attention of journalists. The subject can be further elaborated upon in later paragraphs.
- Journalists seeking more information can move on to the second and third paragraphs, where the subject is explained in considerably more detail. These paragraphs may also include quotes from a company official or other relevant source.
- The final paragraph (usually the fourth or fifth) should contain background information about the subject.
- If the subject of the press release has provided any detailed information (dates, venues, times, etc.), this can be provided at the end of the press release in a separate section or box.
- Given the importance today of search engine optimization, it is also essential to use relevant keywords in the text to ensure the press release is prominently displayed in search-engine results.
Structure of a press release
A press release typically consists of four parts: a headline, a lead paragraph, second and third paragraphs, and a final paragraph containing background information.
- For a press release to stand out among the countless emails that a journalist or editor receives every day, the key message should be communicated through a compelling headline, and reinforced in a lead paragraph. A good lead paragraph will also answer the ‘5W1H’ questions, when applicable. If an editor chooses only to publish the lead paragraph, the text should contain all primary information.
- The second and third paragraphs should include more detailed information, such as the purpose of an event, the number of expected participants, etc. If journalists or editors want more information, they should be able to find it in these two paragraphs.
- If a press release is sent out prior to an event with a view to attracting participants and members of the press, an invitation message should be communicated in the third paragraph. The date, time and venue of the event, along with additional contact information, should be placed in a small, separate box at the end of the press release.
- The fourth paragraph is generally reserved for background information, such as a company’s history, similar events held in the past, or other details related to the subject of the press release.
Spelling/grammar rules for press releases
When writing a press release, grammar and spelling mistakes should be assiduously avoided. Mistakes mean extra work for editors, thus decreasing the likelihood of a press release being published. Headlines, meanwhile, should be both explanatory and compelling. They should not be too long; rather, they should convey the message clearly and concisely. The first letter of each word in a headline should be capitalized, and headlines should never be presented in all caps.
- Sub-headlines should avoid referring to product or services, or any particular organizations. Sub-headlines that highlight statistics or figures are often appreciated by journalists, who tend to prefer data-based information.
- Commonly used fonts should be employed, while italics and other typefaces should be avoided. Fonts should not be so large that they look ridiculous.
- The use of sub-headlines in press releases facilitates reading. They can also be used as references, especially when data is cited.
- The name of the product, organization or entity that is being promoted should be used as little as possible. Remember: a press release is not an advertisement. No publisher wants to be seen as promoting a product or product launch directly.
- Standard rules of capitalization apply to press releases. Job titles should begin with a capital letter, and extra attention should be paid to how they are written. Generic titles, such as marketing director, human resources manager, or sales manager, should be written in lower-case.
- Abbreviations may be used when needed, especially for corporate names. For instance, writing ‘THY’ instead of ‘Turkish Airlines’ makes it easier for the reader. The abbreviation can be introduced (between parentheses) the first time you mention the company name, i.e., ‘Turkish Airlines (THY).’ Thereafter, the abbreviation can be used.
- Numbers one through ten should be written out (‘one in ten people’). For numbers greater than ten, numerals should be used (‘11 products were launched’). Dates, percentages, prices, and statistical data should all be expressed using numerals (‘7% of the market’).
- It is important to properly date a press release. The release date should be stated in the upper right-hand corner of the bulletin, which allows it to be easily archived. In the text, all dates should be stated clearly. Ambiguous terms, such as ‘in a few days,’ should be avoided.
- In terms of length, press releases should neither be too long or too short. If it’s too short, it may not be deemed newsworthy and thus not published. If it’s too long, journalists and editors may not have sufficient time to read it. And if they do read and publish it, they may end up removing important content due to space considerations.
- To be more precise in regard to length, the ideal number of words for a press release is between 350 and 500, with the sub-headline never exceeding 90 words.
- In the final paragraph of a press release, details like phone numbers, an email address and other contact information (including social media accounts) can be included, which journalists can use if they have any questions.
Language of a press release
Writing and distributing press releases can help raise a business’s profile. That being said, the key factor to consider when preparing a press release is newsworthiness. The best way to determine whether a subject is newsworthy before you send a press release is by using the ‘5W1H’ test. Any text that can answer those six questions–what, where, why, when, who and how–will most likely be deemed newsworthy.
- The headline should be short but compelling, with a sub-headline summarizing the primary message. The sub-headline and first paragraph should deliver the key points of the press release while avoiding too much detail (this can be done in later paragraphs).
- A press release should be written in journalistic style, not in everyday language. Words of praise and generalizations should be avoided. Press releases are expected to follow the journalistic principle of objectivity.
- A press release should be easy to understand, regardless of the literacy level of one’s target audience. With this in mind, avoid unnecessarily long sentences, complex terminology, and foreign words or phrases.
- Particular attention should be paid to style and accuracy. Mistakes can lead to a press release being mistaken for ad copy, diminishing its chances of being 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.