What is a Press Release? How to Write One?
The word “press release” is heard quite often nowadays and the internet is littered with press releases. It forms an important part of content writing and has benefits for companies, but to be useful and effective it has to be framed properly, based on a proper and commonly used format.
Considering the importance of a press release, a content writer is bound to ask ” what is a press release, how to write one?”. The succeeding paragraphs explain what it is and how to write it.
Before mulling the question of what is a press release, how to write one, we need to know why press releases are written and what benefits accrue to a company and the press. The simple answer to the question is that it allows businesses to spread awareness about their brand or service in the shortest possible time in a cost-effective way and reach out to a wide audience.
These are important benefits in this day and age of advertising, brand building, and promotion and impact the bottom lines of any business. Considering the importance of a press release every major business needs to issue it and content writing professionals need to master the skill of writing a press release and know what is a press release, how to write one.
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A press release
In trying to understand what is a press release, how to write it one we need to know that it is described as a written statement released to the media for providing information or making a statement. Any information that is sent to a reporter or a media outlet deliberately can be considered a press release.
It needs to be remembered that it is a way of informing the public about the product or service of the company and would be a part of the marketing strategy of a company. Other marketing efforts like writing blogging, tweeting, and advertising need to supplement the strategy to publicize a product or a service. A press release fulfills the need of a buyer in the initial stage of a buyer’s journey, that is building awareness of a product or service.
Those who are trying to learn what is a press release, how to write one should understand that timing of a press release is important. Some are meant to be released immediately while others are meant to be released at a specific time. A press release also has to reach the press in time for publication at a certain time. Businesses can put an embargo on a press release to prevent it from being published before the planned date of the release. If a journalist has signed a non-disclosure agreement then they need to honor the agreement and hold the release until the specified time.
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Outlets for press release
Various outlets are used to distribute a press release. One who wants to know what is a press release, how to write one should be aware of these outlets and their requirements a business or entity sending out the press release generally hires a media agency to write and distribute the press release.
The press releases can also be self-published and may be sent to newspapers or online distribution services which could be free or paid. In the case of self-publishing of press releases, though the publication of the press release is guaranteed, the issuer would miss out on editing the press release by a professional. Editing a press release can ensure that it is in the proper format and creates maximum impact by the use of impactful words in a proper sequence.
Though the article is on the subject of what is a press release, how to write one, it would be pertinent to point out that the trend of video press releases is also catching up. Commonly called video news releases, they are more expensive to produce as they need a complete studio set up and may need to use professionals to shoot the video. However, video releases may create a greater impact as the medium offers several possibilities in terms of format, actors, sets, storylines, and, most important of all, helps the viewer visualize the product or service, creating better viewer engagement.
However, for the video news release to be successful and impactful a proper script would have to be written. Hurriedly shot videos shot on low-quality equipment would not serve the purpose and would be counterproductive. Video content also has the advantage of being consumed on mobile phones, computers, and televisions, which helps to increase the reach of video content.
However, despite the advantages and popularity of the video medium, it is unlikely that written press releases would go away since they have endured persistently despite technological developments over the years.
How to write a press release
There are certain basics that a person who is trying to understand what is a press release, how to write one should understand, and one of those basics is that a press release should answer the questions of who, what, where, when and why. Part of the details on the subject of what is a press release and how to write it have been covered and details of what a press release is, why it is required, where it is published, who issues and publishes it, and when it is published has been given in detail.
Before moving into details of how a press release is written, it is important to understand that these five questions of who, what, where, why, and when are required to be answered in a press release to provide comprehensive information to the target audience.
Common press release format consists of the following elements
- A headline
- For immediate release or release on the scheduled date
- Date Place of issue of the press release
- A news peg or introduction
- Detailed information or body of the release
- A boilerplate or details of the issuing company
- A call to Action
- Media contacts for further information
The format given above may seem intimidating and unnecessary to a new person trying to learn what is a press release, how to write one because it is meant to simply give information about a product or service. But anybody who needs to know what is a press release and how to write it has to realize the importance of each element and its utility from the reader’s point of view.
The details of each element of a press release are as follows:
An eye-catching headline can make all the difference between a press release getting noticed or ignored. It should be exciting and interesting to a potential reader and should make him want to read the details or, in the case of the digital medium, click on it. The headline needs to be well articulated, describe the product or service, and use words to excite the reader. Adjectives like best, biggest, fastest can help to catch the attention of a reader and compel him to read further to find out greater detail about the subject mentioned in the headline.
Developing a good headline, that would make an impact, is an essential skill for those who are seeking an answer to what is a press release, how to write one. Examples of good headlines can be found on the internet and in news media. One needs to regularly study the headlines and check for the impact it makes.
Before using a headline on a press release it would help to have a few options ready, by writing down three or four headlines, so that one can switch. If one headline does not work the other one can be used out of the available options. It would also help to get feedback on the headline from friends and colleagues before finalizing one. Headlines can also be written in a text-to-speech application so that one can hear them and decide.
A sub-headline may or may not be provided, depending on the need. A sub-headline needs to support the main headline and may be required to provide more detail about the headline. A content writer trying to learn what is a press release, how to write, needs to understand the importance of a sub-headline. It can help to increase the curiosity of the readers and prompt them to dive deeper into the subject.
However, the appropriateness and need for a sub-heading need to be examined. Providing unnecessary information can kill user interest and can dilute the impact created by a catchy headline. Thus, each of the elements of a press release needs to be handled carefully and with due deliberation on the need.
Like headlines, the sub-headlines can also be written down with the headline options and examined for appropriateness. A person trying to know what a press release is and how to write one also has to be able to judge whether a sub-headline is required or not. As suggested in the previous section feedback on the need for sub-headlines can be obtained from friends and colleagues to judge their appropriateness and one can even have it read to judge its importance.
The immediate or delayed release of information
Learning about this is important for one who is trying to learn what is a press release, how to write one. As mentioned earlier some press releases are meant to be issued immediately and the same is mentioned clearly and prominently in the press release. In case it is to be released immediately one needs to write FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE at the top of the press release. If a delayed release is desired then one needs to write HOLD UNTIL Date…
The timing of a press release is important for most businesses either to coincide with a special event or to prevent rival businesses from knowing about the product or service until the company is ready to launch. Since the timing of the announcement of a product or service has a major impact on the success of the launch and sales, businesses often give importance to the date of the announcement of service.
Announcing a service or product too early without adequate preparation for launch can result in the company losing customers or having to compete with similar products or services in the market. If a press release does not make the right impact then it serves to inform and would only result in wastage of time and effort of a company. It may also defeat the purpose of launching the new product or service.
For important press releases that are received late the press release is inserted after the printing process has started. This process is known as stop press. Space is often left blank for the purpose. However, it needs to realize that the press release has to contain very important information for the media outlet to stop the press. Regular press releases do not merit a stop press and if not delivered in time would be delayed, which may reduce the impact of releasing the information.
Date and place of the press release
Mentioning the date and place of publication is necessary to provide a time and place context to the press release. The date of the press release seeks to inform the media persons that they are receiving the most updated information. It also helps the reader to separate information based on the date of release.
The date also helps to indicate the freshness of the content to the reader and may compel him to read further. The place of the press release is important for the reader as the product or service may be relevant for a particular city or state. However, even if the press release is relevant for a larger section of the community, such as a state or the country, the detail of the city and state should be mentioned to inform the reader about the place of launch.
The introductory paragraph of the press release often called the news peg, is the most important part of the press release and anybody wanting to know what is a press release, how to write one should know about the importance of the news peg. The word news peg is similar to a peg of an alcoholic drink which gives a taste of what is to follow. Similarly, a news peg describes the content of the press release in brief.
Many journalists take a decision on publishing a press release or ignoring it based on the information contained in the news peg. It should explain the contents of the press release in three to four lines to give an idea of the features of the product or service for which a press release is being issued by the business or organization. Hence, the news peg has to be crafted very carefully considering its importance in the whole press release.
To write proper news, peg it would help if the writer of the press release would write the news item in detail and then edit it to shorten it. Being an introductory paragraph, it has to be impactful as well as short to hold the attention of the reader. The information that follows the introductory paragraph should not seem like a repetition.
The information in the introductory paragraph has to be just right to catch the attention of the journalist and convey the significance of the press release, prompting him to select it for publication. Here too, it would help to write a few options until it works out to be just right.
Body of the press release
A body of the press release is the main part of it, which describes the product or service in detail and also carries a quote from someone in the senior management of the company on the product or service. The body of the press release allows the management of a company to make a statement on their product or service and convey their views to the reader.
Views of the management might be important for professional customers to see the advantages of the product or service over competing products and services and also to build credibility about the company. The body may also contain details of pricing, dates of availability, locations of availability, and special features of the product or service. The special features can be described in the form of bullet points so that they are immediately noticeable and stand out from the other description.
The length of the description can vary from two paragraphs to several paras depending on the extent of the description that one wants to share in the press release. The body can be made more interesting through statistics and quotes and can be important in persuading the users to adopt the product or service that is being advertised through it.
It needs to be well written to contain all the information that is to be conveyed and also to hold the interest of the users without being excessively lengthy. It should also include all the crucial information about the product or service. A good practice to write the body of the press release would be to write the main information in the form of a bulleted list in the draft stage and then flesh it out or add detail to each bullet point. Repeated rewriting or revisions may be required to get it right.
Since the body of a press release is an important part of proofreading the content is essential to ensure the accuracy of the information and eliminate grammatical errors. A badly written press release could be a source of irritation for a journalist and may prompt him to reject it. Hence, the writer of the press release should be open to making multiple revisions to the press release.
The term may be new for someone seeking to find out what is a press release, how to write one. A boilerplate contains information about the company that is issuing the press release. Background information of the company like when it was founded and details of its core business will be described in this section.
The details of the company would need to be researched or be obtained from the senior management of the company. If the writer is not working for the company then taking approval from the company on the contents of a boilerplate would be advisable to make sure that the facts are correct.
Call to action
After having mastered other parts of a press release a person who is trying to know what is a press release, how to write one, needs to study how to write a suitable call to action in this section the writer should give a clear call to action so that the reader may decide to engage with the company.
A well-written call to action would tell the customer what to do and how to do it. A simple call to action may simply ask a customer to buy the product or service or register for a service. Call to action is a marketing term that is repeated quite often and makes the press release purposeful.
This section would give the required contact information for potential customers to get more information about the product or service. A company may not want its employees to be contacted directly and may hire an intermediary organization to disseminate details/ Alternatively a company may appoint a focal person to give out information. Details of the intermediary agency and focal person can be included in this section.
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A press release, if written effectively and release on time, can be an effective way of promoting a product or a service. By releasing it to the media there is a possibility of spreading information about it quickly and effectively. However, to be picked up by the media in the first place the press release has to present all the above-mentioned elements effectively.
Here the skill of a content writer in knowing what is a press release, how to write one is important, as knowing the formats and elements can only help him write an effective press release. As social media has become a popular marketing tool it is also being used as an alternative option for issuing press releases, reducing the need to get it past the journalists. However, the reach of the social medium would depend on its popularity, and to obtain the same benefits that one obtains from publishing it in the press one needs to make sure that the social media channel has adequate reach.