February 22, 2012#

The Composition of a Press Release

In public relations, the press release is not only the most recognizable term in the industry; it’s the primary way to communicate with your audience. A press release is essentially just a pseudo-news story that gives a journalist everything they need to compose an article or newscast. It sound simple in theory, but writing a press release can be much more difficult than that. A press release has a highly specific formula, and if one ingredient is missing, it could blow up in your face.

Before you even think about writing a headline, give your reader a way to reach you. In the upper-left hand corner of your document, be sure to include a media contact. It should be set up like this:

Media Contact:
Your Name, Your Company Name
O: (xxx) xxx-xxx C: (xxx) xxx-xxx
Email Address

You don’t have to include your cell phone number, but if it’s a time-sensitive subject, I highly recommend it.

Put the logo of the company or event the press release is about on the opposite corner from you media contact.

If the press release is for immediate release, you want to write “IMMEDIATE RELEASE” in all caps on the left margin, directly above the headline. If the release is embargoed, put “EMBARGOED UNTIL…” with the date you want the story released. A company would embargo a release if they have a specific time they want the information released to the public. A release with no release date is presumed to be for immediate release.

When you go to write your header, model the language off of newspaper headlines. The header should be written in active voice (as should the rest of your press release) and it doesn’t necessarily need to be a full sentence.

When writing the meat of your press release, construct it using an inverted pyramid scheme. Start with the most important details and close with the least important. The best kinds of press releases are the ones that already have a story within them. Journalists want to see a press release that gives them an angle, a topic and supporting facts. Most journalists will do follow-up interviews themselves, but if you give them as much information in the release as possible (without going overboard), they don’t have to do as much research.

Include all the details about your subject and have a quote from someone the journalists would want to conduct further interviews with. Never use the sentence, “We’re so excited about such and such event.” It’s boring, pointless and adds absolutely nothing to your press release. Also, be sure to include the 5 Ws and the H: Who, what, when, where, why, and how.

When closing out the press release, include a phone number and website, if available, if they’re looking for more information. Next, you’ll want to put the boiler plate of the company, organization or person to which the press release is referring. The boiler plate can be defined as a background or “about us” section, which provides an overview of the company who is being represented in the release.

End it all with ###, and your press release is complete!

The press release is way too important to not give it careful consideration. Think of it as you first impression on the media, you only get to make ONE first impression. Make it a good one!


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