When used appropriately, the press release can be a very effective tool in getting advertising for your business. But what some businesses don’t take into consideration is that in order for a press release to be effective, the event discussed in the press release must be newsworthy. Just because you have launched your website doesn’t mean that you have a newsworthy event that should go in a press release. Once you do have a newsworthy event that you think would interest journalists, you need to write the press release and that can be intimidating. Here is a guide to help you write press releases for your business.
The Basics: Who, What, When, Where, Why and How
The first thing that you need to understand about a press release is that you want to give the relevant information to the journalist that is looking at over as quickly as possible and that means making sure that the five W’s and one H are covered immediately.
- Who: this is where you will list the people that are directly involved with the maximum one or two people or a group. Pay particular attention to anyone affected by your news.
- What: this is where you will give the news that you need to give. For example: company X is opening 200 retail stores.
- When: you also want to tell them when it is happening and make sure they know that it will occur on a specific date. With the above example, you could say in the next 10 years.
- Where: if the event is happening in a specific location then you will list the ‘where’ as well.
- Why: you want to give the reason why this change is occurring because that fully rounds out the story.
- How: you also want to describe how this is going to occur so that the journalists have a clear picture in their mind and can represent it accurately.
The Structure of a Press Release
When it comes to the actual structure of a press release there are some specific standards that you’ll want to follow. There is a prescribed format that press releases are written in and if you stray very far from this format, it is likely that your press release will go in the trash unread. Here is how you should structure your press release.
Timing of the Release
The first line of your press release should tell the person reading it when the information can be released. For example, most press releases read FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE as the first line to indicate that the information can be released as soon as it is received by the journalist or news organization. In some rare cases, the news may need to be postponed until a certain date or time but this is unusual and definitely not recommended unless the news is so important that the journalist is willing to wait to publish the news.
The Headline of Your Press Release
You want to come up with a compelling headline that is going to make whoever is reading it take notice and want to check out the rest of the release. Your headline should give the information, but should be written in such a way as to entice someone to read more. However, you don’t have to worry about creating the perfect headline that is going to look good in a newspaper because most of the time it will get changed anyway.
Formatting Your Paragraphs
When it comes to formatting your paragraphs there are a few rules that you need to follow. First, you want to double space your paragraphs because most news organizations will want to make corrections and edits before it goes to print and this will give them the opportunity to do so without having to squeeze text onto the page.
You also want to make sure that you use as few paragraphs as possible. Most press releases should stay at one page and if you can get the information in less than one page, then you should definitely do it. Cut and edit until you have the most concise copy possible. Remove extraneous words and have someone look over your release to ensure it explains the event clearly.
The first paragraph of your press release should contain all of the information listed above with the 5 W’s and 1 H. The person reading the press release should know exactly what is going on after reading the first paragraph. The second paragraph expands on the information in the first and that includes any subsequent paragraphs as well.
At the end of your press release, you can write the word ENDS if you choose, to show where the release ends and then make sure that you put contact information for your organization including who to contact, their email, their telephone number and any other information such as office hours or mobile telephone numbers.
Targeting Your Press Release
When it comes to choosing who to send your press release to, it can get pretty confusing. There are lots of media organizations and corporations that own media organizations so can be difficult to figure out who to contact. However, if you are just looking for the best places to send your release you should start with media in your local area. Often, newspapers are looking for interesting local stories that they can put in that section of the paper. If you send a press release to media organizations within your area there is a chance they might use it.
You can also target media organizations within your own industry. For example, if you are a plastics manufacturing company you may want to find some trade publications that publish news within your industry and send a press release to them. When it comes to sending press releases to the national press organizations, keep in mind that they aren’t going to care unless the event is significant enough to impact a large segment of the population or they think that a large number of people will be interested in it.