How to Write an Effective Press Release
The most effective strategy you can use to build sales and awareness with publicity is to write a compelling press release. This chapter will give you all the insider tips, show you a variety of samples, and present a worksheet to help you gather your facts. Then, you can choose one of the model/template files we’ve provided to use as a foundation for your own effective press release.
Elements of a Press Release
A press release is a descriptive marketing tool that tells the press what is new, interesting and exciting about your product or service. It includes the features and benefits of the product, information on how the product will be marketed and distributed, and any special requirements (for example, a computer software program may require a certain amount of memory, a toy may be suitable for children ages 2-5, a medication may not be recommended for people with a pacemaker).
Reporters get hundreds of press releases a day, so they don’t have time to read them all from beginning to end. Therefore, a press release should rarely be longer than two pages. Reporters are only likely to read a longer press release if it comes from a top-tier company in your market.
To catch a reporter’s interest, you must follow a distinct press release layout which has six basic elements. Your use of this distinct press release format makes it unnecessary to proclaim “news release” or “press release” at the top of your release.
Six basic elements common to all press releases:
- Release Information: The release information is usually positioned at the left margin just below your letterhead. Normally, you will prepare and submit your press releases with the words “For Immediate Release” as your release information. If you are submitting your press release in advance but don’t want the information made public until a certain date, specify that release date here.
- Contact Information: The names, titles and telephone numbers of your company contacts are usually listed just below the release information. If possible, include each contact’s desk telephone number and home telephone number (because the press works under tight deadlines and may need to reach a contact after normal business hours) and MCI Mail or CompuServe account number, if available. The name and telephone number of the contact person at your public relations agency, if there is one, can go alongside or below the company contact information.
- Headline: Every press release should have a headline that briefly states your main point. The main headline may be followed by subheads that make secondary points. Headlines are positioned below your contact information, and should always be centered on the page in boldface type.
- Dateline: The dateline includes the city and state where the company is located and the date of the release. If you are distributing the press release at a convention, use the name of that city in the dateline. The dateline is usually positioned at the left margin directly below the headline and begins the first paragraph of the body text.
- Body Text: The body text of your press release should take the information from your Product Positioning Worksheet (see Chapter 1) and add relevant details and quotes. The lead paragraph is a quick encapsulation of the main message of the release. It should answer the questions who, what, when, where, why and how (see the Press Release Worksheet later in this chapter for some specific questions that your press release should answer). If your press release is timed for a trade show, include the name of the show and your company’s booth number in the lead paragraph so interested reporters can locate you.
- Positioning Statement: The last paragraph of your press release should include your full company positioning statement. (A short company positioning statement could be woven into an earlier paragraph where your company is first mentioned. For example, Chet Smith Tax Services, a tax preparation service for self-employed persons, announced today a special discount offer for persons who schedule appointments before March 1.)