Pro-quality press releases are essential for any business. They’re a proven way to get free publicity, and writing one doesn’t have to be hard.
I receive a lot of press releases. Many of them are great—informational, clear and concise. But some of them are truly terrible, with vague details, sloppy writing, and a lack of key information.
Before You Begin
Before you start writing your press release, think like an editor. Their job is to provide interesting news and information to their readers—not provide free PR for your company. When you ask for press, make sure your event or project is newsworthy.
As a friend recently put it, “An art gallery having an art show is not news.” What is it about your event or project that is really newsworthy? Is there someone well-known involved? Is it unexpected? Is it controversial? Is it on the leading edge of a trend? Is it going to be really amazing?
Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to write a professional press release that attracts the attention of writers and editors and gives them the information they need to tell your story. And no, I don’t recommend writing your press release in purple. That is just for the sake of example 😉
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Pro Tip: Make sure your email subject line is clear. Don’t get clever or vague. Get to the point: Renowned author, Janet Austen, to Read at FabCoworking. You want people to open your email because they don’t want to miss your newsworthy project or event.
1. Contact info: Put this at the top of page where it’s very easy to find. This should be the contact info of the person, or people, who can provide more information, quotes, images, etc.
2. Link to images, if relevant or available: Don’t bury a link to images in the release. A great image can be an anchor for press and the less time they have to spend looking for it, the better. Attach two of your best photos and, if more are available, provide a link to them.
3. Clear headline: At the top of the press release, in bold letters, briefly describe what’s happening and who is involved. This can be the same as the email subject line. In this top spot, you should also include the location and date and it’s happening. In publishing, especially in print, deadlines dictate what we can cover and when, so make this clear at the very top.
Pro tip: Don’t wait until a week out to request press. By that time, much of what will be printed is already determined. Aim for four weeks out to give publications plenty of time to schedule your event. Announcements, depending on how time-sensitive they are, should be shared as soon as you have the information. For instance, if your business just won a prestigious prize, get a press release out ASAP so press can get on it in a timely manner.
4. Include quotes: Us press folks love great quotes. If a well-known writer or publication called Janet Austen the “greatest writer of our time,” include that. If Jane Austen called her latest work the “most challenging and rewarding of her entire career,” include that. Quotes work really well as social proof. You can even include them above the body of the press release to quickly catch (and keep) attention.
5. Create a catchy hook: What’s the most interesting thing you’re sharing? Is a well-known person involved? Is it the first of its kind? Does it kick off an exciting new project? Don’t bury the lede down in the body of the press release. Put it in the first sentence. Us writers and editors don’t want to have to read every line of your press release wondering if it’s interesting enough to cover. Give us the goods at the very beginning.
Pro tip: Use the Inverted Pyramid, which means you put the most important information at the top, important information under that, and then background and general information after that. Take this same approach with your press release.
6. Event date and location. I mentioned this above, but you’d be surprised to know how many requests I get for event coverage, without letting me know when and where the event is. PR people will send out a request for press that basically says, “This person is coming to town. It would be great if you covered it.”
7. Provide great content, including background information, links and context. What makes great content? For our example press release, I’d want to know who Janet Austen is, why it’s cool that she’s coming to town, where she’s from, and what she’s done. I’d also want links to her website and latest books.
Pro Tip: Remember in school when you learned about the five W’s: who, what, when, where and why? Be sure to include those. And also include the price and any other relevant details, such as the fact that there are only 100 tickets available, or that there will be free pizza, or that you can pre-purchase autographed copies of the latest book and avoid the line during the event.
8. Keep it short: Keep your press release to one page or even half a page. If you’ve done a good job writing it, press people should have everything they need to make a decision about coverage and get started, and contact information if they need more info or a quote.
Pro tip: Put it in the body and attach it. Wondering whether to attach the press release or include it in the body of the email? My suggestion is to do both. That way, the press person has the info without having to open an attachment, and they can forward a tidy attachment without including the next person in an email thread.
You’ve written your pro-quality, attention-getting press release, but you’re not done yet. Now you need get it in front of the right people. If it never gets opened, it doesn’t matter how great your press release is.
If you already have a personal relationship with contacts in the press, great, send it along with a friendly message, a quick note about why the event or project is amazing, and a request for press.
If not, send your press release to the editors of local papers and, if appropriate, the editors of larger and online publications, but also send it to writers and editors of specific sections.
I’ll let you in on a secret: editors are wildly overworked and their inboxes are a steady stream of requests for coverage—many of which may go unopened. Boost your chance of getting press by contacting people, such as associate editors and writers, who work below the editor. They’re much more likely to open your email and they have a direct line of communication with the editor.
Pro tip: Know who you’re sending your press release to. A personalized email that includes the person’s name and a sense of what they cover will get your much further than an email that begins with “Dear journalist.”
I hope that helps! As ever, reach out if you have any questions. If you have tips to add, please do so in the comments.
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