What is a Press Release?
A press release is a written document prepared for the media – also called the press - that announces something newsworthy. This 1-3-page document is disseminated to the media in the hopes that reporters and editors will use the information contained within in an upcoming TV or radio broadcast, in a newspaper or magazine issue, or on the media’s website.
Reasons for a Press Release
There are a number of situations that might call for the use of a press release, such as:
- Company announcement - Restructuring, expansion, relocation, new locations, strategic partnership, new financial backers or investors are all worthy of a press release.
- Product announcement - New products, improved products, new brands, new retail outlets carrying the product could all be announced through a press release.
- Initiative announcement - New internal or external projects that impact the company’s community would be appropriate for a press release.
- Employee announcement - New hires and promotions are worthy of a press release.
- Honors or awards - Awards or special recognition given to a company, product, project, or employee are all press release-worthy.
- Research results - Releasing the findings of a survey or study of some kind related to the business.
The key question to ask yourself before preparing one is, “Who cares about this information?” And as long as the answer is people who will turn to the press for information, you’re on the right track with your press release.
On the other hand, if the only people who will be interested in this information is your family and friends, or even your employees, then you really don’t need a public press release.
What a Press Release Looks Like
To make it clear to members of the press – reporters, writers, and editors – that the information you’re giving them is a press release for their use, and not an advertisement or letter to the editor, you need to send it in press release format. Yes, there is a specific format you should use when preparing a press release. Here are some of the key features:
- In an upper right or left corner, you should have the words “Media Contact,” followed by the name, phone number, and email address of the person reporters should reach out to if they have follow-up questions.
- Below that, on the left side of the page, include the date on which the information can be made public. If it’s immediately, type “For immediate release.” But if you’re not making the announcement public until a future date, type, “Embargoed until [whatever the date is].”
- In the center or left of the page, include a headline that summarizes the information in the press release. That might be, “Jones Promoted to General Manager,” or “The Whoseewhatsit Named Top Toy of 2016.”
- Some press releases use a subhead on the next line, providing a little more detail, but this is optional.
- On the next line, which is the first line of your release, include the city and state you’re in formatted in all caps, and the date on which you’re making the announcement. For example, “CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – November 21, 2017.” Then start your announcement.
- Write in an inverted pyramid style, where the most important information goes in the first sentence, with the next most important second, and so on. This way, if an editor needs to cut material from the bottom, you can at least be assured the most essential details were included.
- Double space your paragraphs.
- End with the symbols, “###” in the center at the bottom of your release.
Who to Send it To
Getting your press release in the hands of the news media most likely to be interested in what you have to say is your next challenge. So think about who is likely to care at all about your news? This might include:
- Your local business community
- Your customers
- Your prospects
- Influencers who refer you business
- Potential business partners
- Your vendors
- Other companies in your industry
- Thought leaders in your space
Then make a list of the news media outlets who would potentially use the information you’re sharing and send it to them. Email is fine.
A well-written press release, formatted properly, and sent to the appropriate reporter can yield thousands, or even tens of thousands, of dollars of free publicity.