How To Write A Press Release The Contemporary Way

There are several writing tools that public relations professionals use to reach the media. The formatting has changed some over the years, becoming much more flexible on what goes, while its intent has stayed the same. The basics on how to write a press release are mostly the same, but some of the rules have changed.

A press release is designed to capture a reporter’s attention, reveal facts and supportive information, and provide a quote source. It is the most widely used communications tool between a public relations professional and the media.

Make sure it is news!

Writing a press release isn’t just about sending out information. It has to be newsworthy. Just because your company released a new a product line doesn’t necessarily make for a good news story.

For example, Dole Fruits and Vegetables was trying to get media attention for its U.S. Tour “Get UP and Grow!” While the company was setting up stands in grocery store parking lots giving tastings and distributing information on ways to cook and mix fruits and vegetables, this didn’t make for a news story. Needless to say, we needed to figure some type of fun way to get the media involved. We pitched the media on interviewing the Dole representative and conducting a trivial pursuit question program where television hosts would have to answer such questions as What fruit is known to prevent cancer? How many calories are there in a pear? What vegetable helps prevent infertility? This made for a fun and visual presentation. It got picked up by several television channels in each of the tour stops.

Now, let’s say you just released a new line of perfume. You’re not Christy Brinkley or Ralph Lauren, so how do you get press coverage on this? Your press release must have news value, so think about what would make your news release something the media will read, let alone pick up and write about. Just because you launched a new perfume is not newsworthy in and of itself, so you have to think outside of the box. Is it the first perfume known with solely organic ingredients? Can you include it in a holiday list that can be included in the 10 most unusual holiday gifts under $100? Is it a unisex cologne that all the Las Vegas Santa Clauses are going to wear on the strip at midnight of Christmas Eve? Make it sensational and newsworthy. Get my drift?

Some of the ways to distinguish your story idea from others are:

Is it announcing something that would interest readers of a specific section of a newspaper or in a specific trade publication?

Does it tie into a current event?

Can you spin it as a trend piece?

Does it pertain to a time of year, holiday, day light savings time?

Format: How to Write a Press Release

Let’s start talking about how to write a press release. This tool is also known as a news release or media release. It all boils down to the same thing with the same purpose: a standard format designed with the intent of capturing the media’s attention so they write a story about whatever message your press release is trying to convey. Yet, some of the old rules on how to write a press release can now be broken.

The basic press release needs to include the following:

  1. Media contact information
  2. Dateline
  3. Headline
  4. Photo information
  5. Lead paragraph
  6. Supporting paragraph(s)
  7. Conclusion that wraps it all up
  8. Tag line about the company that is sending the press release. If it is a joint venture release in which two or more companies are involved, include all of the company’s information.

Media Contact

Make life easy on the reporter. If you have more than one person the media can contact, include both. Don’t make the media guess or search for information on any level.

Example:

Lisa Porter

Porter PR P& Marketing

877.499.3777

SkypeID: porterpr1

Photo Information

Photos available upon request. State it under your contact information.

Contrary to popular belief, most reporters work on older computers. They also don’t like to open files they are unsure of. It is better to let them know that photos are available along with their descriptions are available upon request rather than send them with the release. Also, let them know you if you have them in hi- and lo-resolution. If they want them, they will ask you to send them. At this point you would want to ask what resolution they require. Send a caption with it, but not part of the image. If the image is of people, name them from left to right.

Dateline

This is the part of the press release that tells the date and where the press release is coming from. It is typically in capital letters. It is standard formatting that has not changed. It is an intricate part of knowing how to write a press release and the media will expect to see this on every one you send their way.

Example: DAYTON, OH – Sept. 14, 2016

Headline

Make the headline strong, powerful, catchy. It may take as much time to write a headline as it does the press release, but it could be the difference whether the reporter reads it. Remember, reporters receive hundreds of press releases daily.

Write the headline after you’ve written the press release. This way you can understand the story in its entirely and know what is most likely to draw the reporter or editor’s attention. Use a bold type and a 14-point font so it stands out without being obnoxious.  You may need to spend as much time and attention on the headline as you do on writing the rest of the press release. It is what is initially going to capture the media’s attention. The headline needs to be something you would read on the front page of the New York Times or Wall Street Journal. Double meaning headlines also can be fun as well.

Email Subject Line

It is alright to use the headline in your email as the subject line, but also include that it’s a press release. For example, in the subject line: California Residents Find New Ways to Protect Homes From Upcoming Fire Season Sometimes. Now you can even include a sub-topic. This is another way the rules on how to write a press release have changed.

Example:

Stonehill & Taylor Breathes New Life Into New York City Gem

The New York City-based architecture and design firm brings the glamour of Marilyn Monroe and the city’s Jazz age to the Radisson Lexington Hotel

This was the headline for a press release we wrote about the renovation of a historic New York City, which brings us to what to put in the lead paragraph.

Lead Paragraph

This is where all the pertinent information goes. That doesn’t mean it has to be boring.  While you can insert your own style and thought, how to write a press release that will get read by the media must include specific criteria: the who, what, where, when, why and how of the story without. It cannot seem like you stuffed it with boring facts. The higher up the important information goes in the release the better. For example, here is the lead paragraph for a press release about a hotel renovation. The example below has the who, what and where. Contrary to old school press release writing, the how and why can follow in the second paragraph. Just make sure it is high up in the release. Most reporters only read the first and second paragraph to see if there is any interest. Keep this in mind.

Example:

Former residents Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio would feel right at home again at the Radisson Lexington Hotel thanks to a recent part-Hollywood, part Jazz age glamorous renovation by local architecture firm Stonehill & Taylor. Bold colors and sensual materials intermingle through the property, brining the hotel back to its 1920s heyday.

More often than not, companies use this space to toot their own horn with jargon. Nothing irritates the reporter more than having to read through this marketing information before getting to the important facts.

For example, here is the first paragraph of a press release from a well-known coffee house:

CITY, STATE –  (March 14, 2014) – (COMPANY NAME), a long-established XXX Coast brand favored for its coffee and baked goods, announced the signing of multi-unit store development agreements with three new franchise groups to develop 36 restaurants in Southern California as part of its expansion west. Restaurants will open in San Diego, Inland Empire, Orange County, San Bernardino and the San Fernando Valley over the next several years.

This company could have easily nixed the “long-established XXX Coast brand flavored for its coffee and baked goods,” especially since it was a well-known name. Even if the company sending out the release is not known, keep the marketing out of the upper portion of a release. Leave it for the tag.

Body

Here you should explain why the information in the lead paragraph is happening. Go into detail. What other prominent people or companies are involved? Talk about the history of the company or of why this event is taking place. Back up your lead paragraph with facts.

A quote will most likely be in the third paragraph (second in the body). Make it substantial, not just a bunch of meaningless words.

Example:

Strong quote: “Redcliff Construction built the Tech USA Center to accommodate Seattle’s growing technology sector,” said Paul Thomas, CEO, Redcliff Construction. “With Amazon, Microsoft, Expedia and other prominent companies coming to the city in droves, the demand to provide a common-ground place to congregate was a logical and strategically sound move by city planners.”

Weak quote: “Redcliff Construction is proud to have built the Tech USA Center,” said Paul Thomas, CEO, Redcliff Construction. “We enjoyed working with the city planners to make the center a great place for congregating.”

Tips

  • The press release should be 400 words or less (approximately one page), 1.5 spacing.
  • Avoid long sentences and paragraphs. About five sentences is enough. Your goal is to keep your reader’s attention.
  • Be succinct. To hone in on your journalistic writing skills, read a quality newspaper. They waste no words. Their tone is smart, short and fact-driven. As dry as a press release often is, that is typically what the media wants. Let the reporter write the story. Your job is to provide them with an idea supported by facts.
  • You may include hyperlinks, but only use one for your company. Otherwise it becomes marketing. It is up to the discretion of the media you are working with whether it gets posted with the link or not. It is a good idea to research the newspaper or online magazine to see if they use links. If they don’t, leave it out of your release.

Conclusion

As with most writings including essays, features and reports, you want to wrap up your release by referring to your first paragraph. This is where you can incorporate your own style and incorporate some of your own ideas. No longer does the press release need to be a solid statement. This is where the standard basics of how to write a press release has changed the most.

Example

Lead

New York City—Oct. 1, 2007–Local architecture firm Stonehill & Taylor is helping the New Yorker Hotel—once one of the largest hotels in New York City—make a stunning comeback. Restoring the art deco beauty to its former glory, the designers are replacing floral carpets and quilted bedspreads in all 910 guestrooms with contemporary interiors inspired by the various styles of the 1930s architectural movement.

Wrap-up

“We’re breathing life back into the New Yorker,” Knapp says. “This wonderful, historic hotel has flourished and faded, and we’re giving it the edge it needs to reclaim its status in the New York hotel market.”

Old school ways on how to write a press release has changed the most here. Whereas you used to be required to finish your release with a statement, you can now be a little more creative and daring.

Just remember that your press release format needs to read well, make sense, keep the reporter’s needs in mind by keeping the important information up top and be newsworthy. The goal of this article is to teach you the basics on how to write a press release, but you should incorporate your own style without blurring the facts or getting too wordy.

Tag

Here is where you can boast about your company, reveal its history, include other projects and let reporters know where they can get more information.

Example:

Lead

IRVINE, Calif.—November 7, 2014— The joint venture team of R.D. Olson Development and Wynmark Company will announce today at a groundbreaking in Goleta, Calif. that what was once slated to be named the Camino Real Hotel, an independent hotel, will open as the Courtyard by Marriott. This will be the first Marriott to be built in Goleta. Goleta Mayor Margaret Connell and other city officials will join the new hotel owners for the event scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, November 8 at 401 Storke Rd.

Tag – In this case we worked with two companies. Note: We put our client, R.D. Olson Development first.

About R.D. Olson Development

Robert Olson founded R.D. Olson Development in 1998, which has since gained standing as a leading hotel developer. Projects underway include the Courtyard by Marriott Maui, the first Kahului airport hotel; Courtyard by Marriott in Oceanside; and Residence Inn by Marriott in San Juan Capistrano, representing the first hotel built in the city in nearly 20 years. Other California developments the company has to its credit include a Marriott Renaissance ClubSport in Aliso Viejo, Calif.–a combined 174-room full-service Marriott Renaissance Hotel brand and 70,000-square-foot world-class fitness center, and a five-story 166-room Residence Inn by Marriott in Burbank, Calif. that caters to the entertainment industry. More information on the company may be found at https://rdodevelopment.com.

About Wynmark Company

Located in Santa Barbara, California, Wynmark is a planning and development company dedicated to undertaking unique projects, which satisfy needs within the local community. Since its inception in 1993, Wynmark has planned, permitted and built a diverse portfolio of projects in the Santa Barbara area and beyond that include an 80,000-square-foot office building, the largest regional shopping in Santa Barbara comprising over 500,000 square feet, a $70 million 369-unit senior living campus, a 9-lot high-end residential development, and a 25-acre community park. Additional projects include a Costco anchored shopping center in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Now that you know how to write a press release, please make sure it is newsworthy before sending it to reporters or editors. Our article Public Relations Is Your Most Powerful Marketing Tool. Use It Wisely will explain how to differentiate news from marketing and advertising.