Everything You Need to Know About Press Release
03 Nov 2021
Press releases have been a part of journalism for over a century now. The first press release being published back in 1906, when Ivy Lee, the then public relations expert for the Pennsylvania railroad broke the news of a tragic train wreck that took the lives of over 50 people.
Instead of waiting for the reporters to cover the story, he took it upon himself to write an honest review of the incident and sent it across various news agencies. The NewYork Times was quick to respond to it. Not only did they publish the story but published it in exactly his own words, just the way they received it. And hence, the first press release was born!
What is a Press Release?
A Press release (PR) is a piece of information that you can send across various media channels, publication houses, and newswires for distribution. You can also send them via e-mails, post them on your website, and social media platforms for an even wider media coverage.
Unlike information received from other sources, a press release is verified by default as it comes straight from the point of origin itself. What’s more is that it contains a first hand account of the actual event, which if found newsworthy is reprinted in verbatim in most of the cases.
Although, any information that you send deliberately to press or media is considered a press release, majority of public relations professionals follow a standard format when submitting it. Thus, a good press release would answer all of the 5 Ws of journalism i.e. Who, What, Where, When, and Why, regardless of whether you call it a press release, news release, or a press statement.
And that also explains why more than half of world’s journalists tend to prefer press releases over other ways of news gathering. Aside from making a journalist’s job easy, a press release is also a legit way of reaching out to public or your audience. Its motto being accuracy, authenticity, and public interest. Now, you may think that the rise of social media might have made pr press releases obsolete. But that’s not the case!
Why Press Releases are more important than ever?
Gone are those days when PR could only be used for making official statements and public announcements. These days you can use it for a number of other reasons such as branding, marketing, promotion, ceremonies, events, research publication, and anything of value that you want to spread the word about. And then there is “fake news!” Which has occupied such a large space of online community that it’s hard to make a difference between facts and fiction.
Press releases, being the original piece of information can make a lot of difference here. When done right, it would most certainly get you the media coverage, plus the audience you’re looking for. And should your story be engaging enough, it would find you the right audience faster than you can imagine. Not only would it draw a larger audience base at once, but would also drive organic traffic, more shares, as well as arouse a broader interest for your brand in both the media and the public. And that brings us to the importance of press releases in public relations. Let’s take a look:
- PR can be used for announcing a new product or service, as well as upcoming sales and promotional offers. By including all the product details such as specifications, pricing, stock availability, updates and so on, you can offer more value to customers without having them to look for it.
- Improving brand image is another astounding effect of a good press release. That’s because press releases can provide a relevant, accurate, and valuable account of your business to your targeted clients and interested profiles.
- Press releases and newsletters with eye-catching visuals and images help drive interest. High-quality images can do a lot more than draw attention. They can tell a whole story! In fact, a media press release with an appealing image is 7 times more likely to be read as compared to the one without an image.
- The primary purpose of press release is instant world-wide distribution. Compared to its early days when press releases were limited to papers and newswires, modern tech has brought various other means of distribution such as e-mails and social media for swift and easy transmission.
- Press releases are quite useful when it comes to expanding public knowledge. It’s a great way of communicating with your audience directly, and deliver messages in an interesting, informative, and entertaining manner.
- Viral possibilities- Press releases can easily go viral should they be valuable enough. They are a permanent piece of record on your company’s website, which can easily be accessed via any internet enabled device round the clock.
- Portability and convenience are yet another qualities of a press release in the age of information. A smartly crafted press release would be easy to understand without having to go through the entire content. And that’s something you can do using special characters and elements such as bold letters, catchy quotes, and underlining etc. The point is to make it look more appealing, scannable, readable, and comprehensible at a single glance.
- Search engine optimization is the key if you want to come up at the top of the search engine rankings. By including targeted keywords and links in your press release, you can make it more friendly to google search criteria.
Now as important as press releases have become in the modern digital age, the fundamental rules of writing a good press release haven’t changed much.
What do you need to know before you start writing a Press Release?
Press releases can be used in a number of situations. What you need to know is whether or not a particular situation needs a press release article. Remember the thumb rule for creating a press release is that it should be of public interest. So as long as you’re able to draw the public’s attention with it, you are okay! Once you’re sure that it would be of some use for the public, you can get to the actual reason for publishing a press release in newspaper.
Here’s what you need to understand before writing one:
- What do you want to accomplish?
- Is it for branding and marketing?
- Or do you want to add more subscribers with it?
- Or maybe you want to promote a product or service? And so on. (I hope you get the idea!)
Another thing to keep in mind, is basic journalism which as I already mentioned revolves around the 5 Ws. Now, depending upon the actual reason of publishing a press release, you can choose from different types of it.
What are the different types of Press Releases?
Press releases can be published based on your long-term goals as well as short-term objectives. Keeping that in mind you can design the content of a press release while sticking to the standard format. And yes, don’t forget the 5Ws!
Okay, so here are the different types of press releases:
1. New/Improved Product Launch:
It is a type of press release that can be used to offer valuable insights about new products and services. That includes product’s specifications, pricing, availability, improvement, date of launch, and other details that you might think of value.
2. Upcoming Events:
Upcoming events can also be promoted using press releases and newsletters. This type of PR press release would contain everything about the event starting from its objective, venue, pricing (if any), invitees, and other important details.
3. Grand Opening:
Grand opening press releases can be published in many scenarios. For instance when you’ve opened up a new office or business, or relocated, or even if you’re trying to kick-off a start-up. This type of press release must contain the date, timing, and the venue of the grand opening, important participants, schedule, and any other noteworthy aspect of the party.
4. Executive promotions/ New hiring
Executive promotions/ new hiring are always crucial for a company and its success. A press release here can be used as a compelling way of establishing the credibility of your frontline workers on behalf of your business.
5. New Partnership:
New Partnership with other businesses is mostly a win-win. Plus letting the public know about them would only make your business practices more transparent and customer friendly. A press release is a great way of doing so with intrigue. But to do that correctly, you must include the reason why you’re partnering up in the first place, followed by a brief summary on each company, and most of all how does it help your customers, clients, and stakeholders.
Awards are for winners. And winners love to celebrate! Besides, releasing a statement about your accomplishments as a business can help you establish your brand’s authority in the market. It can also help you earn the confidence of your sales prospects in your products and services.
7. Crisis management:
Crisis management or crisis communication press release is all about being transparent with your audience. Especially when your business is hit by some sort of crisis, be it financial, organisational, technological, natural, or internal. This type of press release should highlight the problems your company is facing, the impact it has made, and the plan and course of action that you’ve taken so as to minimise its effects.
8. Mergers and Acquisition:
Mergers and Acquisition are worth releasing a press statement. That’s because merging with, or acquiring a new business or a company is a sign of growth that would impact your entire business and the people around it. Make sure to include all the details such as the companies involved, their area of expertise, and any message of value their thought-leaders want to convey.
As you can see, press releases can be circulated for a number of reasons. All you need to do is stick to the rules, specify the information based on the type of release you want to publish, and I’m sure you’d be able to write a good old-fashioned press release in no time!
Speaking of which, let’s find out how to write one.
6 Essential Parts for writing a good Press Release
Press releases have come a long way. Yet, haven’t changed much. Although the means of communication have evolved, the basic idea and structure of a press release remains the same as it was before internet. That is, 4-5 paragraphs of total word limit between 400-500, and the over-all length of press or news release being anywhere between 300-800.
The essential components of a good press release are as follows:
1. Headline/ Title:
The first thing anyone would notice in a press release, or any news article for that matter, is its headline. The catchy it is, the more likely it is to grab your attention. It’s what will attract the reader to the whole story. And for that you would need to make it spot-on, something that you can do easily by making it relevant.
You can also include the targeted keyword in the title but make sure that it doesn’t sound like a sales pitch. In fact, that’s the last thing you want to do with your press release. The characters should be somewhere around 60 for Google, while the word limit could be anywhere between one to six. Also make sure to use upper case in all the words of a headline except for the words with 3 characters or less. Remember, the goal of a headline is to arouse interest. So keep it short, sweet, and informative.
2. Dateline and lead paragraph:
Okay, so you have your reader’s attention. What now? Well, now is the time to answer the 5 Ws!
Start by mentioning the date and the place of the origin of the story, followed by a simple and short account of upto 25 words so as to keep the reader engaged into what you have to say. You should also refrain from using fancy words and phrases in the lead paragraph. Instead, keep it to the point and include only the key information that you want to announce to the public.
3. Contact Information
Contact details of your communication officer is also something that you can mention at the top should a journalist wants to get in touch. It should include the name of the public relations representative, company’s name, telephone number, website and email address. By having a separate spot for contact info, you can save a lot of space in the body section and use it to convey the story at hand.
Here’s a perfect example of a product launch press release wherein as you can see the contact info is mentioned right at the top, next to the title.
4. Body Section
This is the main part of a press release where you can cover the whole story with all the relevant details such as facts, stats, images, videos, charts, hyperlinks and anything else of value. Body section also allows you to cover the 5Ws incase you weren’t able to do that in the lead paragraph for some reason. You should do this in the first paragraph of the body.
In the second paragraph, you can use quotes and insights from those involved or effected by the release to support your story.
The third and the last paragraph of the main body would be all about summarising the news and key points made in headline and above paragraphs.
5. Boilerplate Statement (About the company)
Boilerplate statement is a general description of your company and area of expertise that you can use over and over again in business press releases so as to tell the people about your business and what you have to offer. You can also add links to your website and social media pages to direct the readers to your content in this section. A common way to do so is to include an “About the company” section right at the bottom.
Here’s a superb example of a boilerplate statement in a press release:
6. Call to Action (CTA)
Although, a press release information should not sound like a sales pitch, in no way does it mean that you cannot use CTAs in it. In fact, one of the main purposes of an online press release statements is to drive web traffic to your website. But to do that correctly, you must first realise the goal of your press release. So if it’s intended to target web traffic, you can use the “learn more” tactic as a CTA. In a product launch press release, you can use “limited period offer”, or “pre-order” button and so on.
It could also be a simple invite of sign-up, weekly tips, or an invitation to become a part of an event or member of the company’s community. The point is to include an appropriate CTA at the end of every press release so as to create opportunities while getting all the public attention you desire.
Example of a good Press Release:
Although, thousands of press releases are being published everyday, only a few make a lasting impression. Below is a cool example of press release made by early childhood nutrition company “Gerber”! It’s an event and award announcing press release that contains almost all the elements of a good press release.
Here, take a look:
Tips for publishing Press Releases:
Writing a press release is only the first part. The next challenge is to get it published by news media for which you’ll have to send it across multiple news channels including newswires, social media, your website and blogs, and other places that you believe can get you the media coverage you want.
Here are some of the tips that you can use to get the best out of a press release:
1. Reach out to specific journalists:
Bombarding the press with your press release is not a good idea. You must do it in a professional way by contacting only those journalists and reporters you know well, preferable those who’ve worked with you or your company in the past.
2. Don't be afraid to go offline:
Press reporters usually have a lot on their plate to deal with on daily basis. And thus it may not always be easy for them to sort through each and every e-mail, unless of course they have prior information about a particular one.
Regardless, you should stay on a safer side by including offline mediums of reaching out to media as well. You can use ordinary post or any there offline channel you find feasible.
3. Send the release to top journalists the day before:
Best journalists take time to get familiar with a news report to be able to craft a story around it. By sending them the release prior to the day of publication, you can give them ample of time to prepare. You can do that by sending the press release in embargo, which means that although they can go through the release, they can’t share it with public until the time that you have specified.
4. To avoid competition, don't publish your release on the hour:
Timing is also crucial when it comes to publishing a press release, especially with online newswire services. Instead of posting it at the exact hour, when most companies want their releases to go out, the smart thing would be to either submit it before the hour or after the hour.
For instance, instead of publishing it at 0100 hrs, or 0300 hours, you should try 1:15, 2: 30, or 3:20, or any other random time of the hour but never on the exact hour.
5. Share your media coverage:
Once your press release is published by the press, comes the time to share the media coverage you’ve got. Sharing your success stories and what media says about you is a great way of promoting your release.
A good press release, complete in all its requisite elements and structure can generate a lot of public attention and awareness about your brand and values. If done right, it can drive significant web traffic to your website, boost leads, and increase the over-all ROI without increasing your expenses.
But remember, a press release usually has a short-term impact as it lasts for a couple of months at max. So try and come up with useful press releases whenever it’s possible especially when it’s about public interest.