How to Write a Good Press Release: Tips and Guidelines

Here we offer some tips and guidelines for small business owners and entrepreneurs on how to write an effective press release. First and foremost, before you get started on your press release, you should consider this question: Why should my target audience care about this? Throughout the process of creating your press release, you should be trying to answer that question, keeping in mind that your audience is both the journalist or editor, and their readers, listeners, and/or viewers.

Know Your Target Audience
Find out which reporters and journalists speak to your target market, then write the release for the type of media you are trying to reach. Do you want to get featured in a trade magazine? A local newspaper? A tech blog? If so, check out the type of stories they feature and the type of topics they cover — and customize your press release to fit with their publication. Whether that means emphasizing a certain angle, shaping your story a certain way, or using a certain type of language, the press release should be customized to the outlet as much as possible.

Make It Newsworthy
This ties into that critical question: why should people care? Think carefully about your message, and how you’re going to frame it. What makes your message interesting? How can you shape your message into a compelling story? What points can you emphasize or what angle can you take that will make it more interesting for the particular audience you are targeting? Remember, that any story that ties into current events or features interesting people can be newsworthy. Does your story do either?

Write Like a Journalist
Write the press release as if you are writing a news article. Create a short but descriptive headline (headlines should denote action and grab people’s attention). Then write a concise but compelling lead paragraph, that includes all of the critical information of the story – in other words, the who, what, where, when and why (also known as “the 5 w’s”). While a good headline captures a reader’s interest, a good lead paragraph draws readers into the story. The following paragraphs should add depth and personality to the story. Illustrate points with quotes from relevant people/sources. Back up facts and statistics by siting them, when possible. Write as an objective third person, use crisp, clear language, and keep adjectives to a minimum. In short, write like a journalist.

Keep It Short, Sweet and Simply Formatted
A press release should not exceed one page in length. Publishers and editors go through hundreds of press releases each day, and much like cover letters, scan them very quickly for key words and phrases. They make a decision about inclusion and follow up based on whether the story is relevant to their audience, but don’t need (or want) more than a page of information to make that decision. If you are submitting your press release electronically, keep the formatting in plain text and include it in the body of the email, rather than as an attachment.

Include All Necessary Contact Information
Don’t forget to include all of your contact information or the contact information of your publicist at the end of the press release, including name, address, telephone number, email address and website url. This information generally appears after the 3 hash symbols which signal the end of a press release. It’s also common and acceptable for a company bio to be included below the hash symbols and contact information.

Avoid Common Press Release Pitfalls
Remember, this is a press release – not a sales pitch, not a speech, and not a business presentation. Your press release should tell a compelling story and be informative, using clear language. Don’t use flowery language or superlatives, and keep industry vocabulary to a minimum, unless appropriate (i.e. using technical industry terms may be entirely appropriate for a press release geared toward a trade magazine, but off-putting to the editor of a popular tech blog). Also, don’t add extraneous information or details to the press release, such as a history of your company or an extra quote that highlights your business offerings, unless it is directly relevant to the story content. Journalists don’t appreciate extraneous and irrelevant information, and in the end, it’s them you want to impress.

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