Press releases are a valuable tool in the hands of PR professionals — as long as you use them correctly. Learn what press release best practices can make your news and announcements more effective in today’s busy world.
Top 10 Press Release Best Practices
Your headline sets the tone for what to expect. Use action words to capture the reader’s attention and empower your message. The optimal length for a press release headline is 100 characters or fewer. Make it stand out among the dozens of press releases that journalists read on a daily basis.
Here are some more tips on crafting an effective headline that stands out.
2. Lead with the key takeaway
The opening paragraph, or the ‘intro’, is typically the make or break of any media release.
These first few sentences carry as much weight as the headline to hook a journalist and keep them reading more. This is where they begin to envisage the release’s story potential for the audiences they reach.
Focus on answering the question, “Why should I care?” This is, after all, the question that all journalists ask when they read a press release. Why would their audience want to read about your news? Cover all the essential information in the first paragraph. Answer all the who, what, when, where, why, and how questions as soon as possible. Give the straight-up facts so journalists can quickly understand the story and aren’t left deciphering what it’s about.
Here’s some more advice on how to get the most out of your opening paragraph.
3. Never underestimate the worth of a quote
Quotes that are clearly attributed, well-positioned and used sparingly are a powerful element to position within in any release. Personal and pertinent quotes add a human touch to your press release. It makes a reader feel like this is not just another commercial company looking for the limelight. A quote conveys that your news affects real people, and others will want to hear about it. Choose an authority within the company or someone whom the press release directly affects. This could be an executive, a project leader, or a stakeholder. The more important the individual, the more weight the quote will have to journalists and their readers.
4. Don’t leave any loose ends
Once a journalist opens the press release, you don’t want to lose them with a lack of relevant details. A journalist should never have to ask, “What does this company do?” If they are confused, the journalist will most likely move on to the next press release in their inbox.
Explain your company, and include a link to your company’s home page. If you use statistics or data, link to the appropriate source material.
If you’re worried about forgetting a crucial element of your press release, use this handy checklist to ensure you have everything you need before hitting ‘submit’.
5. Avoid making your press release too long
Don’t overwhelm your reader with too much information. So, how long should a press release be? The sweet spot is between 300 and 500 words. Use white space as much as possible — long paragraphs can look and feel overwhelming to readers. Use bulleted lists to make the information easy to digest.
6. Capture attention with visual content
The human brain processes images faster than it does text. Use that to your advantage in your press release. Visuals capture a reader’s attention and allow people to more easily digest information. Include infographics with key statistics and data, photos of your product, or a video demonstration. This adds value to your press release and could make the difference in a journalist choosing to cover your story over another. Here are some further tips on using infographics and images to enhance your story.
7. Make the last paragraph count
By the end of your press release, you have likely provided all the essential information. Don’t overload the final paragraph with unnecessary or redundant details. Instead, this might be the prime place to explain some of the creative background of the project or announcement. You might also describe any future significance this could have for the industry. Make it interesting, but keep it brief. End on a high note.
8. Include media contact information
Don’t forget to provide a name, phone number and email address for someone the media can contact for more information. Make sure your spokesperson is also available so a journalist can quickly arrange an interview if necessary.
9. Reach out to specific journalists
Resist the urge to send your press release to every journalist whose contact information you can find. Sending a release to the wrong audience could harm your relationship with them, impacting on the success of your future campaigns. It’s worth pausing for a moment to select the most appropriate journalists to pitch your story to. A good place to start is searching an up-to-date database of media contacts for journalists who are currently covering the relevant subject matter. Get to know them through their profiles and when you reach out, add a personal touch that sets you apart from the mountain of other press releases they receive. Here are some more tips on how to target your release to the right audiences.
10. Use an online distribution service
Press release distribution services like Medianet can go a long way in getting the right eyes on your announcement. The most valuable currency in the world of earned media is trust. Medianet’s close relationships with Australia’s most influential newsrooms and an exclusive partnership with AAP lets you leverage the trust we’ve built with newsrooms and journalists over more than 30 years.
With our platform, you can access a broad suite of powerful tools that help break through cluttered inboxes to put you ahead in the race to win journalists’ precious attention. We support you to ensure every campaign is optimised, so you’re always pitching the right way.
A few key points to remember:
- Keep your headline short (less than 100 words), with action verbs that motivate your reader to open and read your press release.
- Get to the point quickly within your first paragraph, and answer all those W questions.
- The ideal press release length is between 300-500 words.
- Reach out only to those journalists who are relevant to your industry.
Make the most of each press release by applying the above press release best practices.