Press releases: How to issue standout stories (with template)

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Summary

A press release is a brief news story targeted at a relevant group of media members. Companies often use press releases to announce product launches, partnerships, or expansions. Read on to learn how to expand your reach with a standout press release. Plus, check out a press release example and view a free template to get you started.

Media coverage is an excellent form of promotion because, even with a top-notch marketing strategy, people find value in third-party opinions. An ad for a new restaurant may catch your eye, but there’s no way to know if the restaurant is being honest about their quality. If you read a glowing review about the restaurant in a magazine, however, your perspective might change. With a trusted, third-party recommendation, you’ll feel more confident with your choice.

When you send a standout press release, journalists promote it in the media, which gives your company valuable, trusted exposure. In this piece, we’ll explain how to write a strong press release so you can get noticed by the media and expand your reach.

What is a press release used for?

Press releases are stories that announce company news to a relevant group of media members. Companies and public relations teams often write press releases to announce:

  • Product launches or updates

  • Mergers or new partnerships

  • Securing business funding

  • New executive hires or board members

The goal of writing and distributing press releases is to get media members to share them so your company receives publicity outside of its marketing efforts.

Who is responsible for writing press releases?

Your company may have a public relations team write and distribute your press releases. If you don’t have a PR team, you can syndicate your press release through a service, who will then send it to reporters, journalists, bloggers, influencers, and news outlets. Because the media may receive hundreds of press releases each week, it’s crucial to make your press release stand out.

To make your press release stand out,  you’ll need to:

  • Choose a strong angle for your audience

  • Write a killer headline and lead

  • Stick to the right format

Most importantly, your press release will stand out by picking something interesting to write about. The media won’t want to read about what happens during your weekly team meetings. Instead, consider writing a press release when something new and out of the ordinary occurs.

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What are the 10 parts of a press release?

Press releases have a specific format. This makes it easy for the press to quickly sift through the text and get the information they need. An effective press release should follow the correct format while still engaging the reader.

10 key components of a press release

A press release typically includes: 

  1. Logo: Display your company logo at the top of the press release so journalists know who sent the document.

  2. Contact information: Follow up your logo with your contact info, including your name, job role, company name, email, and phone number.

  3. Release date: The release date for a press release is typically “for immediate release.” This means anyone in the media can share the press release as soon as you’ve made it public. If the press release is under a news embargo, it’s important to clarify that here.

  4. Headline and sub-headline: Your heading and sub-headline are crucial, and you should treat them like they're part of a breaking news piece. These may be the only items the journalist reads, so make sure they grab attention.

  5. Location and date: You’ll start your first paragraph with your company’s location and the date of your breaking news. The location should be in all caps. If you’re reporting from a well-known city, you don’t need to include the state.

  6. Lead sentence: Your first sentence in the story is called your lead, and this sentence should encompass everything you plan to say in the paragraphs to follow. Like the headline, this may be the only sentence the journalist reads, so you’ll need to answer every question a reader would want to know about the story in this sentence.

  7. The story: Continue your story in two or three short paragraphs. 

  8. Boilerplate: Supplement your story with boilerplate content—or informational content—about your company.

  9. End notation: Every press release should end with three pound signs. 

  10. Final notes: The only thing that should go below the end notation is a final note that leads the reader to your company’s website, email, or phone number for more information on the story. 

Limit your press release to one page to get your news across quickly. A press release that’s well-formatted, brief, and presents a strong narrative will have the best chance of getting promoted by the media.

How to write a press release: 5 steps

Once you’re familiar with the press release format, you can finally begin the writing process. You’ll likely write one press release and distribute it to many media outlets, but you can tweak the document slightly depending on who you’re writing to and what you think they want to hear.

[inline illustration] how to write a press release in 5 steps (infographic)

1. Have a newsworthy story to tell

You can’t write a press release without having something newsworthy to tell your audience. Examples of newsworthy stories your business may write a press release about include:

  • Offering a new product or service

  • Grand opening or rebranding of the company

  • Signing a new and well-known client

  • Offering an internship program or scholarship fund

  • Deciding to go green

Press releases aren’t usually something you brainstorm. Instead of saying, “what can we write a press release about today?” only share a press release when something exciting and momentous happens.

2. Write an intriguing headline

In journalism, a story headline is called the “hed” and the sub-headline is called the “dek.” Having a strong hed and dek is just as important for your press release as it is for a newspaper or magazine article. Carefully craft your words to tease the reader and make them excited to read on. If your hed and dek aren’t interesting, you risk losing your reader. 

Three qualities of a strong press release headline include:

  • Clarity: Your headline should excite your reader for what’s coming without misleading them. 

  • Informative: Provide something in your headline that informs your reader about the topic at hand.

  • Engaging: Use interesting verbs, puns, or wordplay to engage your reader.

Because your sub-headline can be longer than your headline, this is where you should support your headline with more detail on the topic. An example of an effective hed and dek for Apollo Enterprises’ new software product launch may look like: 

  • Hed: “We Have Liftoff!” Apollo Launches Once More

  • Dek: SaaS company, Apollo Enterprises, has officially launched an “out-of-this-world” SEO product.

3. Answer the “5 Ws and H” in the lead

If your headline is successful, then journalists will continue reading your story. But as you know, most people don’t have time to read an entire piece of content—or worse—they lose interest before getting to the end. This is where your lead comes in. Your lead is the first sentence of your press release, and it should function similar to the lead in a news piece. 

It may seem challenging, but in one sentence, try to answer as many questions about your story as possible. Consider the who, what, when, where, why, and how of your story. An example lead sentence for Apollo Enterprises’ new product may look like:

Lead: Today, Apollo Enterprises—a SaaS company specializing in digital marketing—launched their first SEO product, offering content optimization and competitor analysis tools through an online platform and desktop application.

4. Support your story in the body content

The rest of your story should include information that supports what you stated in your lead. When your press release is digital, you can make it interactive by including links to relevant sources within your story. You can also make your story more credible and interesting by including quotes from key sources. 

The goal here is to elaborate on your topic with engaging information that resonates with your audience. For example:

  • If you’re discussing a new product, include a quote from your head of engineering about the product development process

  • If you’re announcing a new partnership, include a quote from your partner and any details about your future plans. 

  • If you’re announcing a new hire, include a professional image of the person.

  • If you're announcing a new public-good program, you can include statistics and details about who the program will help.

  • If you’re announcing new research, add any findings you discovered, as well as the research methodology you used.

Keep your story brief and provide only the most interesting details in this section.

5. Summarize your company with boilerplate

After completing the news section of your press release, you’ll include a paragraph known as the boilerplate. In two or three sentences, provide the reader with a brief description of your company. 

The boilerplate is helpful for journalists because it answers the “who” and “what” of your press release in plain language. Instead of focusing on craft or cleverness in this section, simply deliver the facts.

Press release template

Every company’s press release will look slightly different. Make sure you’re putting your team’s unique flair on it, while still sticking to the standard 10 sections. Here’s what a template press release might look like: 

[inline illustration] press release template (example)

Use this example press release template as a guide when creating your own press release for distribution.

Example press release

Here, you’ll see a press release example for Apollo Enterprises and their new product launch. A journalist reading this press release would quickly see who the company is, what type of company they are, and what they’re announcing.

[inline illustration] press release (example)

To complete this press release, Apollo Enterprises would support their lead with information in the body paragraphs. Some ways they might do this include:

  • Explaining how their new product differs from others on the market.

  • Explaining how the analysis tools work.

  • Providing a case study from a beta user who tested the unique features. 

Best practices for press release distribution

When writing and distributing your press release, there are two audiences you’ll need to think about. Your primary audience is the media outlets you’re sending the story to, and your secondary audience is the people you hope the piece will influence.

To ensure you’ve crafted your press release for both audiences, follow these best practices:

  • Make it credible:You may know your story is credible but you’ll need to prove this to your audience. To prove your credibility, use primary sources, quotes, links, and statistics. The more supporting information you have for your piece, the better.

  • Write for a niche audience: You shouldn’t send your press release to every media contact you can get your hands on. Target your media audience the same way you target customers when marketing. Your piece will only resonate with relevant media outlets, so make sure you distribute it to the right people.

  • Avoid salesy language: Press releases aren’t the right place to use salesy language. Media members don’t want to be sold on your product or your news story. They want you to grab their attention so they feel compelled to share or write about your business.

  • Prepare for cross-channel promotion:If a journalist or media blogger shares your press release across the internet, you’ll improve your chances of business success by making your document interactive and social media friendly. Don’t be afraid to include things like hashtags, social media handles, links, and infographics in your content.

Track your campaign with workflow management tools

Once you’ve sent your press release to relevant media contacts, you’ll have to wait and see whether anyone promotes it. Establishing a workflow to track a press release campaign can help you find insights into whether a piece is performing.

With a work management software like Asana, you have everything you need to plan, execute, and reflect on the success of your press release.

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