I recently attended a “Writing a press release” course courtesy of PRCA. The PRCA is one of Europe’s largest and most influential PR and Communications membership bodies, and they run a variety of training sessions to help further your knowledge within the industry. The day was extremely insightful, informative and interesting to see the ways in which a press release should be written as well as how it is being perceived from a journalist’s point of view.
A press release is an informative body of text that announces newsworthy content to media news members within the industry and is then emailed out to feature within a chosen publication. An example of a press release can be a product launch for a client, an award win and even a new starter or expansion to your business.
Every industry has their own unique way of how to write a press release, but during the course I attended we were shown a variety of ways in which one should be written. Below are a few examples of what was shown.
The phone test:
When receiving an email on your mobile device, you always look at your phone and wonder whether the email is worth reading. If an email said:
’o2 Priority – Justin Timberlake tickets live on sale’
You would be more inclined to click onto the email to see what tickets are available for you to purchase, especially if you love Justin Timberlake.
This theory should be applied when writing a press release. You want to ensure the title of your release, and first five words are enticing and captivating to make the reader want to read on and see what information you have sent to them – there is nothing worse than reading a dull, boring title and first line that doesn’t entice the reader to make them want to read further like the below image.
This image is a prime example of the phone test, as there’s no catchy title or caption to make you want to read on, and as journalists and reporters can receive hundreds of press releases a day, you want to ensure that yours stands out from the crowd and receives the publicity it deserves.
The group were also informed that it’s okay if you haven’t got a title first when writing your release. Some people get so fixated in needing a title first before they write the main body of text that they never move forward to the actual piece. If you get stuck, or have difficulties, write bullet points of what points you need to cover, take an hour away from it and try again, as looking for too long can sometimes give you a writers block or a mini panic attack as you can’t think straight – and always get someone else to proof read your work, this definitely helps!
Presentation and format is very important when sending a release. The traditional format of a press release is as follows:
- Press release/ news story + the title
- Embargo/ for immediate release
- —- Begins —-
- The main text of the release
- —- Ends —-
- Appendix/boiler plate
It’s not concrete that you have to stick by this layout, but having a guide is always a bonus. Especially if you are new to a company, my advice would be to ask questions to people who currently do press releases or look at previous examples the company have done.
The format I currently use is:
- News story + the title – with attached photograph
- Dear reader introduction – before release
- Title of the press release
- The main text of the release
- —- Ends —-
- Boiler plate
This format may not work everyone, but it’s all about adapting to what style captivates the journalist in your industry and what works best for you and your company.
Make it personal:
When sending a press release I always think it’s a nice gesture to put an introductory before sending the release, for example:
Please find this news release regarding….
In my training it was suggested that this doesn’t need to be sent, as journalists often don’t want to read that, they just want to be informed of the news, but I think the introduction just gives the release that personal touch and lets the journalist know who you are, and what they are about to read. Of course, if you have a reputation with a publication, then you can send the release to them individually as you have that relationship.
My advice is to play around and see what works best for you and the publication you are sending the release to, and it doesn’t harm to ask for feedback.
Blind copies, attachments and length:
If you are sending a release to multiple publications make sure you always BCC your email. There is nothing worse than sending a news release and all recipients can see who its been sent to. Also, sending a release as an attachment is never a good idea. Draft your release in a word document, and upload this into the main body of the email and ensure that the text has 1.5 spacing.
The group was also informed that a press release should never be longer than 2 pages. We were given multiple examples of press releases and one by one we discussed whether we thought they were informative or not. It was very shocking to see the examples of what people within the industry had sent to journalists and reporters, and it just puts into perspective the importance of structuring your work and ensuring you use the correct language.
I hope this blog is useful for those who are starting out in PR or who have been working in the industry for years, and may want to revamp how they write a release. I would recommend booking a course and having a fresh outlook, and of course you will become a professional at writing press releases, just like me!