Back-to-(PR)-School: Press Release 101


The press release…it’s a tool that has been in the pockets of public relations pros for decades, and it seems almost every year stories report of its death. Throughout my career in PR, there have been attempts to change the press release format, but those attempts have been just that…anyone remember the social media release? While releases may have a lackluster reputation, the question “can you send me the release?” is often one of the first lines uttered when pitching client news and developments.

We’d argue that the press release is not dead. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when you are writing a release.

Give it a Gut Check

Before writing your release, give the newsworthiness a gut check; not every little product update or added feature is worth a stand-alone release, especially with the cost of distribution over the wire. Think about the news in terms of a pitch; is there an audience that will care about this news beyond your client? If the answer is no, consider writing up a blog post instead.

Draw Them in With the Headline

Headlines are the first thing read in a press release, and if it’s too long winded, boring, flashy or unintelligible, no one will continue reading. And, good headlines are important for search engine ranking (a bit more on that below). Spend time crafting the headline, and try to capture the essence of the release in as few words as possible. Once you’ve finished writing, give it another look to make sure you really did capture the crux of your news succinctly.

Content: The Five W’s

Who, what, where, when and why; these five words are key to any story, especially a press release. Make sure you capture all of the important details about what and why, and do so in an easy to understand manner. Include validation of your news, whether that is in the form of a customer that can provide a quote about their use, or an industry analyst that can talk about the industry need. Use data to illustrate the story – numbers can give that news further validation. Push back on the use of jargon and try to write it so your parents or grandparents would understand what the news is all about.

Think Like a Machine

SEO is still a tool that is extremely important to businesses, as Google search results can help make or break a purchase decision and much more. Updates to Google’s algorithm in the last year have actually helped press releases rank higher in news searches – if they are written well. This does not mean throwing in all of your keywords into the release, however, you should be able to weave a few into the body of your release without going overboard.

Proofread and Repeat

We’ve all seen them – press releases with typos or punctuation errors. Proof your release multiple times – even better, send it to a colleague that can give it a read with fresh eyes. That extra step can save you from bigger headaches later.

Any other tips for writing good press releases?