Press Releases 101
This post covers everything you wanted to know about press releases, including how they're used in a content marketing strategy, how to order one with a press release writing service and how to write one successfully.
Why do companies use press releases?
The goal of a press release is to either get published as-is or get the attention of a journalist, leading to a bigger story. Press releases sent through a newswire service like PR Newswire can gain significant backlinks, improving a site’s SEO. Press coverage adds to a site’s reputation, introduces the company to new audiences and diversifies link sources, reducing the risk of Penguin-style penalties on major search engines. Since press release writing is an art that takes time to perfect, many small businesses employ a press release writing service to complete these technical pieces quickly and proficiently.
When should a company use a press release?
Companies should use this content marketing tool for anything newsworthy. Standard press release topics include new hires, relocations, expanded or additional offices and acquisitions and mergers, special events and new products. Charitable actions, including fundraisers, events and donations, make great press release material. A news release can support other content marketing efforts, like white papers, case studies and survey research reports.
Companies can easily join the hype gained by current trends in their respective industries by presenting their own relevant facts or story. The release should make the connection between the trend and the fact, company or product very clear. For example, Textbroker put out a press release on hiring and providing jobs during the worst of the recession. Since it was relevant and strongly linked to the trend, it got some coverage from outside media sources.
Be clear on why your subject is newsworthy, and share that information with your press release writing service. A new employee may be newsworthy because you’re hiring during a recession, you have recruited big-name talent for your firm or you’re just showing that your business continues to grow. Each of these reasons will give your news release a slightly different spin, so consider how your release will fit into your general content marketing plan.
How is a press release different from an article?
A press release caters to journalists and reports news, where an article can be more flexible. Other content marketing strategies, like articles and case studies, can try to sell, but press release writing should avoid sales tactics and language. Additionally, a news release has a specific structure that helps journalists easily identify the most important portions of the story; an article can have any structure.
How is a basic press release structured?
All press releases have six building blocks. Without these items, the story may not make it to the journalist’s desk. A press release writing service will require at least four of the six blocks: headline, release date, body and closure.
- Contact information – This should include the company name, contact person’s name, address, city, state and website. While phone numbers and email addresses should be included in the release itself, clients are not always allowed to share this information, and that’s ok. Clients can add in the appropriate information after receiving the body of the release and before publishing.
- Headline – Arguably the hardest part of press release writing, the headline needs to capture the journalist’s attention and succinctly convey the heart of the release’s message. Try to keep headlines to one line. Headlines are usually bold. Authors can include this formatting via our HTML editor. If a client doesn’t want HTML formatting, it should be included in the order instructions.
- Release date – This is the date the company would like the reporters to begin publishing the information. If no date is given, authors should use “FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE.” This goes underneath the title on its own line in plain text.
- Dateline – The dateline includes the date and location of the story. Please include both components in your dateline, especially if your release date is “immediate.” The most common format here is City, ST, Month, Day, Year – (Peoria, IL, Jan. 3, 2012 – ). If you’re using a major city, like New York, Los Angeles or Chicago, leave the state off. Otherwise, use AP-style state abbreviations. If the client has not provided their location, use the placeholder “City, ST.” This goes directly before the first sentence, which starts with a capital letter after the dash.
- Body – Press releases have an inverted pyramid structure. The lead paragraph answers the main questions of who, what, when, where, why and how. The lead paragraph should stand alone, ready for quick clipping by a harried journalist or junior editor. Traditionally, the second paragraph expands on the lead, getting more into the “why” of the announcement. A quotation from an expert or high-ranking company officer follows as a stand-alone paragraph.
- The dirty little secret of PR agencies is that they often write the quotations for their clients. Clients can provide a quotation for authors to include or ask authors to draft a quotation for their clients. Authors should generate quotations that are professional and formal unless otherwise instructed.
- After the quotations, a summary paragraph should end the release. The conclusion should re-state the contact information for the journalist, usually in the form of “Contact Jane Smith at (000) 555-5555 for more information.”
- Some companies have a standard boilerplate after the conclusion of the release. This boilerplate is typically a few lines providing company information and history to put the release in context. If a boilerplate is necessary, the client should provide it in the instructions. This may trigger our anti-plagiarism filter, but it should be passed through quickly.
- Closure – After you’ve completed your press release, end it with three pound signs (###) or the word “ENDS.” This indicates that the release is over. Think of the teletype machine that prints news items in old movies. The ### signaled the end of one transmission and the start of the next.
Clients working with a press release writing service should include the following information in their order instructions:
- Subject and why it is newsworthy
- Business location and website
- Slant if known
- Links to related/relevant trends if required
- Quotation or name and title of company representative for author to craft a quotation
- Boilerplate if required
Authors should remember the following guidelines for writing a press release:
- Third person perspective
- Formal tone
- Inverted pyramid structure
- Short summary in the first paragraph, details in the following paragraphs
- Concise phrasing and clear sentences
- Avoid sales tactics and hyperbole
- End with ### or ENDS.
With a newsworthy subject and clear direction, a press release writing service can quickly turn company news into a content marketing tool ready for publication. Sending your release out via a newswire service can get your news release directly to the journalists that it was crafted for, spreading your message and improving your SEO.