What is a Press Release?

A press release, also known as an announcement, is a document that announces news for the media to cover.  Originally, press releases were 100% text based, though today we have many variations including Web press releases and video press releases that contain images and video recordings.   These newer formats are really an updating of the old “press kit” concept. In the old days, PR people would hand out a packet that contained print outs of the press release, company background, photos, and so forth. Now, they’ve merged into a single online destination.

Whatever the format, though, the purpose is always the same: Get the media to cover your announcement.  The difficulty of getting the media to cover your story will depend a lot on who you are and what you’re announcing.  If you’re the Governor of California and you’re announcing a Presidential run, you barely even need a press release to get coverage.  The media will be there.  If you’re an unknown entrepreneur announcing a new crowdfunding campaign, you will need to work pretty hard to get coverage for your announcement. If you do it right, though, you can get coverage.

We’ve written hundreds of press releases and the main challenge we’ve encountered with clients is a misunderstanding of the concept of announcing news.

A press release has to announce something new. 

Remember – the word “New” is in “News.”  You don’t buy an oldspaper to read about things you already know.  You buy a newspaper to see what’s new in the world.  The press release is the basic vehicle of informing the media about what’s new.

The Press Release Writing Process

Writing a press release typically involves planning and coordination of multiple people. The following workflow is based on the press release writing process at a big company, but its details can be helpful even if you’re working alone.  Even if you’re working with a PR firm that does it all, it’s useful to know the process so you can get the most of it for your business objectives.

Step 1: Decide on your news.  What are you announcing?

Step 2: Pick a release date.

Step 3: Decide who needs to approve the press release. This person/people needs to be given advanced notice of the press release.

Step 4: Identify who has input on the press release, such as marketing people or senior management.

Step 5: Create a summary of the press release topic, release date, and approval steps/people and distribute to the relevant people – make sure everyone is aware of what is going on and what their role is in the process.

Step 6: Interview subject matter experts and key stakeholders on the content of the announcement and the goals of the announcement.  In some cases, this might mean coordinating with other companies, such as distribution partners.

Step 7: Draft the press release and circulate for feedback.

Step 8: Prepare the press briefing list. Who are you targeting for coverage?

Step 9: Determine the press release distribution plan. The “wire service” will offer many options for local papers, TV stations, and so forth – select the plan that matches your media coverage goals.

Step 10: Write a media pitch email/phone script.

Step 11: Do a pre-briefing “call down,” reaching out to reporters to see if they’ll talk to you in advance of your announcement.  You will show them the press release “under embargo,” meaning they cannot write about it until the release date.

Step 12: Finalize the press release.  Lock the copy.

Step 13: Distribute the press release on the wire.

Examples of Press Releases

Press releases vary greatly by the type of company or organization making the announcement.  A fashion press release will be quite different from a political press release or a pink sheet public company earnings press release.  They follow a similar flow, but the content will be quite different.  The fashion press release, for example, can usually take stylistic liberties that would be inappropriate in a political press release.

Here is a sample generic press release, which we will deconstruct below.  We also offer another sample press release you can review.
 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

MEDIA CONTACT

Jane Doe

jane@acme.com

(310) 555-5555

 

 

ACME to Offer Industry’s First Overnight Service for Widgets

Unique Money-Back Delivery Guarantee

 

LOS ANGELES, Calif. – March 21, 2015 – Acme, the world’s leading maker of widgets, announced today that it is offering overnight delivery of widgets with a money-back guarantee, the first offer of its kind in the industry. The overnight delivery service is available for all worldwide customers.  The company made the decision to offer overnight delivery based on customer demand.  Acme, which has been making widgets since 1966, produces the world’s largest assortment of widgets.

“People want our widgets yesterday,” said John Smith, CEO Acme.  “Now, at least, we can get them to you by tomorrow.  Our clients need widgets to run their businesses. We recognize the importance of this fact and have responded by speeding up our delivery terms.”

Acme has the industry’s widest selection of widgets, with more than 1,000 widget SKUs available for overnight shipping in its catalogue.  This includes the popular X84 widget, which is used in such demanding applications as jet engine manifolds.  The company is ISO 9001 Certified.  Acme has also been recognized by the industry for quality, receiving the WidgetWorld Prize for excellence in engineering in 2012 and 2014.

Orders placed by 2PM Pacific Daylight Time will be shipped same day.   The service cost varies by delivery destination.

To learn more, visit Acme.com/overnight.

About Acme

Acme, the world’s largest producer of widgets, was founded by Samuel J. Doe in 1966 as the Los Angeles Widget Foundry Corp.  In 1995, the company merged with Santa Fe Widgets and changed its name to Acme.  Headquartered in Los Angeles, Acme has 14 regional offices and three distribution centers in North America as well as offices in 10 countries around the world.  www.acmewidgets.com

# # #

 

 

Press Release Template

Here is a breakdown of the sample shown above.  There are multiple formats for press releases.  This is just one particular style.   It offers a suggested approach to creating an effective, professional-looking press release.

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

MEDIA CONTACT

[Media contact name]

[Media contact email]

[Media contact phone number]

 

[Headline – Your News]

[Company Name] Announces [Something newsworthy! – think First, Best, Only… what’s special about this news and what it says about you?]

e.g.

 

ACME to Offer Industry’s First Overnight Service for Widgets

 

[Sub-head – interesting details, news hooks, why this is a big deal]

 

e.g.

 

Unique Money-Back Delivery Guarantee

 

 

[Dateline:  CITY, State – DATE – where you are making your announcement]

e.g.

 

LOS ANGELES, Calif. – March 21, 2015 –

 

[NOTE – there are many different styles of datelines.  The one shown here is based on the Associated Press (AP) style.

 

[Lede – Including the dateline, answers the essential journalist questions of who?, what?, when?, why?, where?]

 

[Basic lede format:]

 

[Company –“Who”], [super-quick description of company], announced today [news –“what”], [why this is important – “why”]

 

e.g.

 

Acme, the world’s leading maker of widgets, announced today that it is offering overnight delivery of widgets with a money-back guarantee, the first offer of its kind in the industry.

 

[Additional sentences for first paragraph of press release – bolstering the news importance and adding detail to the lede.]

 

e.g.

 

The overnight delivery service is available for all worldwide customers.  The company made the decision to offer overnight delivery based on customer demand.  Acme, which has been making widgets since 1966, produces the world’s largest assortment of widgets.

 

[The Quote – what the company spokesperson has to say about the news.]

 

e.g.

 

[Basic quote format:]

[“Interesting hook comment”], [Attribution]. [“Rest of the quote.”]

 

e.g.

 

“People want our widgets yesterday,” said John Smith, CEO Acme.  “Now, at least, we can get them to you by tomorrow.  Our clients need widgets to run their businesses. We recognize the importance of this fact and have responded by speeding up our delivery terms.”

 

 

[Supporting paragraph(s) – Adds detail to flesh out the story and support the main news hook.]

e.g.

 

Acme has the industry’s widest selection of widgets, with more than 1,000 widget SKUs available for overnight shipping in its catalogue.  This includes the popular X84 widget, which is used in such demanding applications as jet engine manifolds.  The company is ISO 9001 Certified.  Acme has also been recognized by the industry for quality, receiving the WidgetWorld Prize for excellence in engineering in 2012 and 2014.

 

[Call to Action paragraph – Provides detail on how to take action and get the benefit of the news story, e.g. buy the product or learn more. Also, this paragraph may contain actual pricing information.]

 

e.g.

 

Orders placed by 2PM Pacific Daylight Time will be shipped same day.   The service cost varies by delivery destination.

 

To learn more, visit Acme.com/overnight.

 

[About the Company – i.e. “The Boilerplate” – not required but often useful to include]

e.g.

About Acme

Acme, the world’s largest producer of widgets, was founded by Samuel J. Doe in 1966 as the Los Angeles Widget Foundry Corp.  In 1995, the company merged with Santa Fe Widgets and changed its name to Acme.  Headquartered in Los Angeles, Acme has 14 regional offices and three distribution centers in North America as well as offices in 10 countries around the world.  www.acmewidgets.com

 

[The # signs at the end – this is an old tradition that dates back to the days of lead type. It indicates that this is the formal end of the announcement.]

 

# # #

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailfacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather