You have a great product or service and you want to start getting the word out. Where should you begin? It seems like a huge task, but if you take it step by step you’ll be able to create some buzz.
A press release is not as intimidating as it might seem. Essentially, it’s a document written for specific journalists to encourage them to announce something claimed as having news value- the hook. It is important to note that a press release is different from a news article. A news article is a compilation of facts developed by journalists and published in the news media, whereas a press release is designed to be sent to journalists in order to encourage them to develop favourable articles on the subject.
Why do you need a press release? A press release is the best way to get your information out to your target audience via the media. It provides a credible, unbiased third-party who is talking about you and your business. The release provides the media with all the information they need. It makes their job easier and it provides you with a platform to say anything you want about your news- provided it is factual. It is your time to shine.
Before we get into the mechanics of the release, here are the guidelines to keep in mind when creating the release. This next part may seem a bit technical, but a good press release makes all the difference in the world. Journalists are sent press releases each day by the dozen. They are looking for specific things and if your release doesn’t measure up, they won’t even look at it, let alone consider writing anything about it.
Know your audience. It is important to know which media you will be sending your release to. Lifestyle media have a different style than business media or fashion media. This will influence what you write about in your release and how you write it.
Make sure your information is correct and error-free. This is so important. A press release represents you and your company and you only get one chance to make a good first impression.
The information must be newsworthy. The “news” will depend on your product or event and who your media audience is.
Always have the most important information at the top of the release. This will make it easy for the journalist to scan the information first and not have to read the whole thing before getting to the point.
A press release should not be more than a page, but if you need more space, two pages is fine in a clean typeface, either single or 1.3 spaces in between lines.
Ok, now let’s get started. A press release consists of the following parts: headline, sub-headline/summary, dateline, opening paragraph, a quote, supportive paragraphs, boiler plate and contact information.
Headline: This is the title of the press release. It is short and to the point. It captures the main idea of the release and should grab the interest of the reader right away. Try not to use too many “play on words”. You may think you are being clever and cute, but in actual fact you are diluting the news.
Sub-headline or summary: This follows the headline and gives a bit more information, but still needs to be tight and to the point. Here is an example of a headline and sub-headline: “COMPANY X IS SET TO EXPAND ITS DISTRIBUTION ACROSS [COUNTRY]: 3,000 Jobs Will Be Created Over The Next Five Years”.
Dateline: Before you even start to write the press release, a dateline must appear first. It will contain the date the release is being distributed and it will have the city in which the release is coming from.
Opening paragraph: This is a quick overview of what you want to talk about- it will contain the who, what, where, why and how in a few short sentences. This will immediately follow the dateline. Media don’t have a lot of time so you should capture all the main points in the headline, sub headline and opening paragraph because in most cases, that is all they will read to decide if they want to do anything. The rest of the release adds the detailed information.
The quote: Generally you don’t want to have too many quotes. The best place to put one is right after the opening paragraph or following the second paragraph. It should be from the owner or the person who is most involved. They will be the individual that media will ask for if they want to do an interview later. It shouldn’t be too long, but it should be meaningful and add some inside perspective.
Supportive paragraphs/body: This is the meat of the release. It elaborates on the lead paragraph with facts, background, stats and anything else that is relevant. Keep in mind that even as you write the next few paragraphs, the most important information should be at the top and the least important towards the end.
Boiler plate: This is a paragraph that provides background information about you or the company. It helps the journalist to get to know you better.
Contact information: At the end of the release you will need to have the name, telephone number, and email address of the person that media can follow up with if they want more information or to speak with someone. You will also want to include your web site address if you have one. If you have images you want them to know about, you would mention it here.
Closing: You will want to let media know that the release is done and that there isn’t another page to follow. The following symbols ‘###’ or -30- are typically used at the end of the release. Make sure you also number the pages of the release if there are more than one.
Review: Make sure you review your press release for grammatical errors, spelling errors and missed words. It is also helpful to have someone else look at the release since they will provide fresh eyes and a clean perspective.”
Creating a quality press release takes some time and effort, but when you get to see your company’s name in print, it will be well worth it!
Written by Chantal Lewis