How to Write a Press Release in English

Convince English copywriting service

By Bob Cook and Steve Wallace

A press release is a written statement given to the media. It can announce a variety of news items: scheduled events, promotions, awards, news products and services and sales numbers. They can also be used to create a feature story. Reporters are more likely to consider a story idea if they first receive a release. It is a fundamental tool of Public Relations. A tool anyone can use.

Format for the press release

Write the headline. It should be short, clear and give the press release’s main point.

The press release headline should catch readers’ attention, like a newspaper headline. It may describe a company’s latest achievement, a recent event or a new product or service. For example, “ACME Co. launches new product for the U.S. market.”

The easiest way to write the press release headline is to take out the most important keywords from your press release. Now, with these keywords try to create a logical statement that gets attention. Using keywords will help you get noticed in search engines, and it will be easier for journalists and readers to understand the press release.

Headlines are written in bold and are larger than the press release text. Press release headlines are written in the present-tense and do not include “a” and “the” as well the verb “to be”.

The first word in the press release headline should be capitalized, as should all nouns. Most headline words appear in lower-case letters, do not capitalize every word.

Write the press release.

The press release should be written like you want it in a news story.

Start with the date

Start with the date and city in which the press release came from. Don’t write the city if it is confusing. For example, if the release is written in Hsin-chu about the company’s Taipei office. The first sentence should catch the reader’s attention and say briefly what is happening. The next 1-2 sentences give more information and explain the first sentence.

A first paragraph (two to three sentences) must summarize the press release and the further content must explain it. In our fast world, journalists and readers won’t read the entire press release if the beginning is not interesting. If you are sending a hard copy, text should be double-spaced.

Length

The press release body should be short, no longer than three pages. However, write more than one paragraph. It is impossible to tell your story in a few sentences. If you only have a few sentences you do not have news. Don’t use long sentences and paragraphs. Avoid repetition and using long words or technical terms.

Use facts

Tell the truth. Avoid exaggerating. Journalists are naturally skeptical. If your story sounds too good to be true, you are probably hurting your own credibility. Even if it is true, you may want to tone it down. Talk about real things: events, products, services, people, targets, goals, plans, and projects. To write a press release, answer the following questions:
Communicate who, what, when, where, why, and how. Then consider the points below.

  • What is the news?
  • Why this is news?
  • The people, products, items, dates and other things related to the news
  • The reason behind the news
  • Your company – the source of this news

Now from the information collected, try to write paragraphs and put them in order: The headline, the summary or introduction of the news, event or achievements, product, people, again the concluding summary, and then your company.

Not everything is news.

Your excitement does not mean that you have a news story. Think about your audience. Will someone else find your story interesting? If you just launched a new online store, your store’s opening is exciting to you, but the media does not want to write about another online store. Instead, focus on the features of your online shopping experience, unique products and services. Answer the question, “Why should anyone care?” and make sure your announcement has some news value such as timeliness, uniqueness or something truly unusual. Avoid old expressions such as; “customers save money” or “great customer service.” Focus on news item that makes you different from others.

Find out what is news to your readers and editor or reporter. The more news you write in the press release, the better the chances of it being chosen by a reporter. A press release must provide the media with useful information about your organization, product, service or event. If your press release reads like an advertisement, rewrite it.

Write for the Media.

Sometimes media will pick up your press release and run it in their publications no modification. More commonly, journalists will use your press release as a starter for a larger feature story. Try to write a story as you would like to have it told.

Connect your news to other news

Try to make your press release timely. Tie your news to current events or social issues if possible. Make sure that your story has a good news hook. The timing of the press release is very important. It must be connected to readers and recent events, not too old and not too far away.

The company

Include information about your company. When a journalist chooses your press release for a story, he must mention the company in the news article. Journalists can then get the company information from this section.

The title for this section should be: About ACME COMPANY

After the title, write a paragraph or two describing your company. Each paragraph should be five to six lines long. The text must describe your company and its business. Most businesses already have brochures, presentations or business plans. Introductory sentences from those can be put here.

At the end of this section, mention your website. The link should be the complete URL without any embedding so that, even if this page is printed, the link will be printed as it is. For example: http://www.we-convince.com Companies which have a separate media page on their websites must link the URL there. A media page typically has contact information, press releases, reviews, white papers and articles.

Add contact information. If your press release is really news, journalists will want more information or will want to interview key people connected to it.

If you are comfortable with letting your key people being directly contacted by media, you can provide their contact details on the press release. For example, if you have some new innovation, you can give the contact information of your engineering department or research team to the media.

Or you can give the details of your Public Relations department in the “Contact” section. If you do not have a public relations department, you must ask somebody to be the connection between the media and your company.

The contact details can be changed depending on the topic of the press release. The contact details must include:

  • The Company’s Name
  • Public Relations Department Name and Contact Person
  • Office Address
  • Telephone and Fax Numbers with country/city codes and extension numbers
  • Mobile Phone Number (optional)
  • Time of availability
  • E-mail Addresses
  • Web site Address

Sign of the end of the press release is three # symbols, centered directly underneath the last line of the release. See the sample at end of this article

Additional Tips

Put the company name in the headline

Put the company name in the headline, any subhead, and in the first paragraph to get noticed by search engines and for journalists and other readers. If you’re sending a hard copy, you can use the company paper with letterhead.

Save words

Use only enough words to tell your story. Avoid using unnecessary adjectives, or redundant expressions such as “added bonus” or “first time ever”. If you can tell your story with fewer words, do it. Wordiness distracts from your story. Keep it concise. Make each word count.

Avoid the hype.

The exclamation point (!) is your enemy. There is no better way to destroy your credibility than to include a bunch of hype. If you must use an exclamation point, use one. Never do this!!!!!!!!!!!!

Release date

Write “IMMEDIATE RELEASE” in all caps on the left margin, directly above the headline. If the release is to be delayed, write “EMABARGOED UNTIL…” with the date you want the story released. A release with no release date is for immediate release. A follow-up call can help remind journalists of your story and get an article.

What do you want people to do?

Write what you want the public to do with the information that you are releasing. Do you want them to buy a service? If so, include information about where the service is available. Do you want them to visit your Web site to learn more about your company? If so, include the Web address or phone number.

Write the headline last

Do not write the headline until the release is finished. Editors write the real headlines in newspapers and magazines, but write a good title or “headline” for the release. Make it short and true. If you try to write it before you write the release, you waste time. You don’t know yet what you will say. When you have finished a draft of the release, you may decide to revise your first sentence. Then think about the headline.

Email your release

Send your release by e-mail, and don’t use much formatting. Large type and many colors don’t
improve news, they take away from it. Put the release in the e-mail, not as an attachment. If you must use an attachment, make it a plain text or Rich Text Format file. Word documents are acceptable at most outlets, but if you are using the newest version (.docx), save it as (.doc) file. Many newspapers have not upgraded. Use PDF files only if you are sending lots of graphics. Don’t type a release on company letterhead, scan it, and e-mail a jpeg of the scan. That’s a waste of your time and the editor’s. Just type the release into the e-mail message.

Title as email subject line

When e-mailing a press release, do not make the subject line of your e-mail “press release.” You will not get noticed. Get the editor’s attention by making the subject line your headline. “ACME wins $30 billion OEM contract.” Use your press release headline as the subject line of the e-mail. If you’ve written a good headline, this will help your message get attention in the editor’s e-mail inbox.