How do you write a press release? A beginner’s guide (with PRO tips) from PRunderground.com

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An online press release is an official company announcement meant to be distributed and re-published to hundreds of news and TV websites, search engine, and social media. In its simplest form, it is an extremely easy thing to write, and this beginner’s guide will help you in a step-by-step way to effectively do it yourself.

Businesswoman hand working with new modern computer and writing

Phase 1: Considerations before you write your press release

  • Topic: Typically each press release covers one topic. What is your press release going to be about? A new product? A new strategic hire? An event? A new office or store location? A partnership? An award won? A company milestone? A charitable undertaking?
  • Goal: Figure out what your goal is for sending this press release. General awareness? Branding? SEO? Showing up in search engines? Sales? Traffic? Business credibility from inclusion on a respectable news website? Showing you are active and growing?
    • PRO Tip: Press releases are better drivers of awareness and credibility than direct sales.
  • Audience: Who do you want to get your message to? New customers? Current Customers? Potential investors? Business Partners? Writers or editors? People in a specific city or industry?
    • PRO Tip: Press releases are rarely the best way to reach a writer for original coverage (use direct personal outreach with exclusives for that, or hire a connected Publicist ). A prior press release can be a good background or supplemental document when you are communicating with a writer/editor, but it feels like old news if sent to a writer/editor in an attempt to get coverage on that topic.
  • Relevance: Why should the reader care? Figure out why the reader should care about your announcement. What is new or timely or pertinent about the announcement? Maybe it’s a new product announcement that will help a customer with a certain problem, or to save money or time. Maybe it makes the reader more confident doing business with you. Maybe it’s a fun event for consumers. Or a not-to-miss business conference. Just try to write from a reader’s perspective given your goals and audience and make it relevant to them.
    • PRO Tip: Get to the relevance quickly, ideally in the main headline and first paragraph. You have seconds to grab a reader’s attention.
  • Tone: Make the tone of the press release informative, engaging and active, but not promotional. If it feels like an advertisement, readers are going to stop reading.
  • Length: Make it 4-5 short paragraphs and ideally 200-800 words.

Phase 2: Writing the press release. Let’s look at the components section by section.

  • Main headline: This is the MOST important part of the press release. Google indexes and HEAVILY prioritizes words from the first 70 characters of the headline. It’s largely how it determines what search results your press release will show up in. Pick 3-5 important keywords and put them up front in the headline. Be sure the keywords are both relevant and not too general. Readers also often only read the headline, so get to the point and grab their attention and be informative so they read more. Note that we require
    • PRO Tip: If you are going to spend time being a wordsmith, this is the place.
    • PRO Tip: Read our guide “6 Big Press Release Headline Mistakes (and best practices to fix them)” for specific examples. For example, never use ALLCAPS.
    • NOTE: Put the name of the issuing company or branded product or spokesperson in the main headline to be considered a press release announcement by a company/organization and not article marketing spam.
  • Sub-Headline: In 1-2 sentences, the sub-header provides more detail on the announcement in a summarized way. This is much less important than the main headline.
  • Region: What city and state is the company based in? This is going to go in the dateline.
    • PRO Tip: Put the city and state and not the country. It is not the area you are targeting but the one from which you are based. If you just put ‘United States’ it actually is perceived that you do not have an office and are likely not a real company.
  • Date: What date and time do you want this scheduled for?
    • PRO Tip: Send a press release when your desired audience is going to be online. For most business announcements this is weekdays. For consumer products, events and services, you may want to consider afternoons and evenings as well. For SEO only, you may have (temporarily) less competition for keywords on nights and weekends. We had a NFL-focused client who ran press releases Sunday mornings before games and that was best for them. When in doubt, go for weekdays.
  • First Paragraph: In the first paragraph, restate your company name, a 3-7 word description of what they do, and 1-2 sentences about the announcement at a high level. Be sure you have in here the “Who” and”What”. Put a link in the first paragraph to your website – not the full URL but an inline linked company name or keyword.

    • PRO Tip: Be sure the first paragraph is concise and clear and provides enough information to grab attention and make the reader want to learn more. Be sure it is clear who the press release is from and what it is announcing.
    • Quick Start Basic Template: “[Company Name], a [type of company, or product or service niche of the company], introduces/announces/begins/launches [5-10 words on what you are announcing].”
  • Second Paragraph: The second paragraph goes into 2-4 sentences of more detail about the announcement (more “What”, plus if applicable the “Where” and “When”) and its value or importance (the “Why” your audience might be interested).
  • Third Paragraph: The third paragraph is a great spot to include a quote about the announcement from a company executive. A quote adds high-level color to the announcement, maybe some opinion beyond the facts, as well as excitement and guidance into the importance of the news. It also helps brand an executive as an expert in the area. If this press release involves another company, you can include a quote from them as well. Separate the second quote with a sentence or two of text. The topic of the quote can be more on the “Why” or the “How”.
    • PRO Tip: Include the full name and title of the person giving the quote the first time she/he is mentioned.
  • Fourth paragraph: For those readers till reading, the fourth paragraph is ideal for the deeper details, numbers and figures, or description about the announcement. If you put this up front, you might lose their attention, but for those still reading this is what they want now. Specifics.
  • Fifth paragraph: Summarize the announcement and include 1-2 sentences on what is next for the company. Include a link or call to action for more information.
  • About Us Boilerplate: The About Us Boilerplate is appended to the end of every press release and is typically 2-3 sentences that explains what your company does, and where it is based.
  • Contact Info: Include the name, phone number and email of a press contact for the company. This could be an outside Publicist or an internal Marketing/PR person.
  • Image: Including a relevant image helps grab attention to your press release.

Phase 3: What to do with it when you are finished

  • Exclusive: If you have an announcement that is extremely newsworthy, wait to publish the press release until you pitch the announcement to a writer as an exclusive. Make a ranked list of 10 writers/publications and contact one of them at a time personally by email until one is interested. Tell the writer that is has not been announced yet and you wanted to give them a first exclusive look at it and that it will not go out on the wire until 1-2 (pick how long) days from now. When a writer is interested, do not send it to other writers as an exclusive. Helo the interested writer get all the info they need to write a story.
  • Publish it online: If you got a writer to cover it as an exclusive, great job! If not, now is the time to send it out to be published across news and TV websites, search engines, and social media. There are many press release distribution services from free to $1000+. We are happy to publish it through the PRunderground.com network. See our Plans and Pricing.
  • Post it: Pick the most important or relevant news or TV website that published the press release and link to that version of it from your social media profiles, in email campaigns and from your website. It will have more credibility and value when seen on an important 3rd party news website. Also post a copy of the press release in the News or About section of your website.

 

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About Brian

Brian is an internet marketer and entrepreneur since 1995, has an MBA from Stanford University, and is the Owner of PRUnderground.com.

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