Whether your company is launching a new product, making a major announcement, or highlighting an innovative trade practice, a well-crafted press release can go far in generating publicity about your business.
Consider the press release as your opportunity to proactively deliver news, information, or an announcement about your company in a controlled manner. That said, by sending out a press release, you’re inviting scrutiny, so be prepared to candidly discuss the content and any tangents that may arise.
Standard press releases adhere to the basic principle of answering the fundamental questions of who, what, when, where, why, and how. They tell a brief story and often include a call to action. Some press releases contain news, such as a major acquisition, a merger, an organizational shakeup, or national accolades for an exciting new product, so timeliness is a key component. Other press releases may make more of an attempt to drum up interest for an in-depth feature article, so these need a catchy hook such as a unique trend to pique interest. Whatever your intention, clearly indicate it in your press release.
For the composition of the press release, it’s important to write in jargon-free, straightforward language in the third-person voice while keeping economy of space in mind. You ought to be able to convey your information in a one-page (two-page at the most) double-spaced document. Pay careful attention to grammar, spelling, and factual accuracy.
Press releases vary in appearance, but the media is accustomed to some general practices. Releases that are mailed or faxed are usually on company letterhead, and electronic releases often include the company logo. It is important to include all pertinent contact information about your company and especially the primary contact for the disseminated information. In most cases the author of the news release suffices, though sometimes the CEO or another high-ranking employee with the appropriate breadth of knowledge to answer questions might be a better choice. Whoever the contact person is, make sure that it is clearly stated at the top of the release. When possible, include business, cell, and home telephone numbers plus an e-mail and company Web site address.
To get the media to pay attention to your press release, you need a bold but short attention-grabbing headline; the pithier the better. The headline should summarize the main point of the press release. For effect, these headlines are often written in larger type than the body of the press release and they may be followed by a secondary headline to add punch.
The body of the press release commonly begins with a dateline, signaling where the release originates, as well as the release date. Many press releases fall short by trying to include too much information; so stay focused. Begin with generalities then add specific details. Your goal is to entice the recipient to want to learn more, but the trick is to reveal a compelling tale that will arouse curiosity without raising too many unanswered questions. Comments by a company spokesman or leading industry experts as well as supporting data are entirely appropriate to include, but keep the paragraphs simple and choose an uncomplicated writing style.
Most press releases conclude by presenting background information about the company or product. This data should explain succinctly the basis of your business and its relationship to the intent of the press release. It’s appropriate in this concluding section to indicate any available press kits or supporting materials. To denote the end of the news release, it’s customary to type three pound symbols (###) in a row, a line or two after your text ends.
If you use these general guidelines, your press releases are more likely to garner successful media attention. By following the universal language the media recognizes, your company may soon be in tomorrow’s headlines conveying the controlled message you’ve skillfully honed in your well-planned outreach effort.