The mRELEVANCE team writes a lot of press releases and scores amazing coverage for our clients. This seems to be a tool that is tremendously underutilized by businesses today. mRELEVANCE clients “get it,” but lots of others just don’t!
Press releases are a crucial part of a relevant public relations program, and they are key to distributing relevant content to the media in a professional manner. And, yes, people do still read newspapers (online and in print) and watch the news, or even read the news on Facebook. Business information needs to have roots, and a well-written press release is a good place to start.
“Press releases are a PR staple,” says Carol Morgan, managing partner of mRELEVANCE, in her book, Social Media 3.0.
Here are the mechanics of writing a press release, step by step.
To begin, the company’s letterhead belongs at the top of the page, centered, followed by the intended release date to the left and contact information to the right (name, telephone number and email address of the person the press should reach out to for inquiries about interviews, details or a photo). The headline goes next, usually centered and in bold. Standard press releases are in Arial font, size 12 (or another san serif font).
The headline features the juiciest part of the story and explains the main point. What’s the most current information or development in your story? What’s the “news”? Immediately under the headline is the subhead that expounds off information mentioned in the headline. Everything up until this point may be in single-space copy.
Following the subhead, in double-space body copy, is the dateline. The dateline is the city of origin of your press release.
The professional preference is to follow the Associated Press Stylebook to determine whether the dateline should include a city and state, or just a city. Many major cities, like Atlanta or New York, do not require the state specification. The city should be in all capital letters, followed by a comma and the state name if AP style rules require it, followed by an em-dash. For example:
CANTON, Ga. —
The lead sentence following the dateline is the lead, or lede, sentence that typically summarizes the most important points of the press release: who, what, when, where and why. Typically this information proves crucial to drawing readers in.
Following the lead sentence is the body of the press release where the writer gives further details about points and information already introduced. The typical format of a news story follows the inverted pyramid structure, with the biggest, most impactful information leading the way. Your story or press release shouldn’t have a climactic moment at the end, but rather, open with the climactic moment.
An important rule of thumb is to break up large paragraphs and groups of text. Readers are more likely to continue reading if they don’t feel like they are reading a large body of work. Use lists if you have specific or numbered key points, and try quoting an official or someone of relevance.
If you follow the inverted pyramid structure correctly, the reader will already have read the most pertinent information in the first two paragraphs, at which point they can make the decision to continue reading.
The ending of a press release should reiterate the main point of the story and include a snippet telling where to find further information, such as contact information and/or a website URL. Following this paragraph, is the company’s boilerplate describing the company in more detail. Here’s an example of client Traton Homes’ boilerplate:
The three “# # #” indicate the end of the story; – 30 – can also be used.
To wrap up, here are some key points to remember when writing a press release:
- Find an interesting, newsworthy angle.
- The most significant, eye-catching information should be in the headline and lead.
- Follow the inverted pyramid structure.
- Put the most relevant information at the top of the story beginning with the headline (the five W’s and the H: who, what, when, where, why and how).
- The typical press release is about one to two pages with short, straight-to-the-point paragraphs.
- Don’t forget to include Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to target online readers.
- Include key words
- Provide a variety of sources
- When linking to outside content, be sure to include the “nofollow” coding on the background text.
- Only reference factual information and attribute all sources.
- If it’s an opinion, where did it come from and what makes the speaker an expert on the subject?
- Maintain active voice by describing who did what, not what was done to whom.
A relevant public relations strategy typically includes the distribution of press releases through appropriate mediums. Press releases are one of the most practiced and professional ways to distribute public relations content.
If you’re ready to launch an effective and relevant public relations program, contact Marketing RELEVANCE at 770-383-3360 or fill out the online contact form. We can create an effective strategy to drive traffic and increase sales.