Writing a press release can be stressful. Announcing new projects and changes to your own company becomes easy with time: you are comfortable with your audience and everyone is undoubtedly interested in what it is you have to announce. When the audience extends outside of the company, it can be hard to get the words down on paper. What is too much? What is too little? Will they be interested? Will they keep on reading? If you have asked yourself these questions before whilst writing a press release, I suggest you keep on reading.

Table of contents

What is a press release and what is its purpose?

Put simply, a press release (or news release) is a way to announce an important piece of company information that is of interest to those beyond the company walls. A business’ press release is sent to journalists who then determine whether or not the news is print-worthy. Much of whether or not they determine to publish the news is based on how well you have written your story. Your main goal when writing a press release is to make sure it makes it past the first test: the journalists. If it gets past them, it means you most likely did a good job in making your company’s news interesting and that the public will want to read it.
As you can imagine, many businesses try to send out press releases and journalists have to go through many of them on a regular basis. If your piece isn’t short, punchy, and straight to the point, it is very likely that your press release won’t even be read. Let’s see how to avoid this from happening.

Writing your press release

We have already established that there should be an aspect of rapidity. To quickly answer the question “how long a press release should be?”: 400 words. Maybe a little more, maybe a little less, but never more than one printed page. How do you start writing these 400 words? Here are the five golden rules to writing your press release:

1. Value

Before even starting to think of the title or body of your text, you should ask yourself if this piece of information has any value. Will this piece of information be of interest to anyone outside of the company? There is no point in wasting your own time writing up a press release that does not answer this question with a ‘yes’. Furthermore, a journalist is always looking from an angle of human interest and how this specific piece of content will impact those reading it. If there is no impact, there will be no release.

2. 400

This is your star value. 400 words may seem like a lot, but they fill up very quickly. Try by all means not to sugar coat information and to make sure your message comes across within the limit. Not only should you have short paragraphs, keep your sentences short and punchy and if you want to be even more precise, try to keep them under 25 words each. (That previous sentence was 30…) Length can easily be the reason someone decides to read, or not read your piece. If you are struggling to keep your word count down, remember that pictures can sometimes speak louder than words. Try adding one or two pictures (or even videos) into your final structure.

3. The first paragraph of a press release is key

Your first paragraph should be able to stand alone without any other information necessary to understand what it is you want to tell your audience. It may be the only thing a journalist will read before making up their mind on whether or not they should publish, pursue or throw out the news. It is not only the journalists that will most probably only read the first paragraph, audiences will probably do the same. We are in an age of speed and if a piece of news takes more than a couple of seconds to give us the necessary information, we move on. Even if your press release makes it past the journalists, it is just as important for your target audience to have a clear understanding of what it is you are publishing within the first few lines of text.
The next paragraphs can focus on other topics that can easily be discarded if the journalists want to keep the news shot. The second paragraph serves as additional detail to the first, the third provides some quotes, and the fourth as a way to highlight any new product you may be offering.

4. Five ‘W’s

The five ‘W’s in English are: who, what, when, where, and why. By answering all five of these one-word questions, anyone who reads your press release will know exactly what it is you wish for them to know. You should answer all five of these ‘W’s within the first paragraph. Before starting to write your press release, write these five words as bullet points on a piece of paper and answer each one of them in the shortest possible manner. From there, you can start to form your first paragraph around your responses.

5. Audience

Just like with any piece of text, you need to keep in mind who your target market is. For some companies, they may have a very niche audience that they always target and know how to address them. For others, they may have multiple audiences from various demographics and this is where it can get a little tricky. If your target audience spans over a variety of different demographics you may want to consider more than one press release for the same information. Keep in mind what they may see as most important and what is most relevant to them. Furthermore, remember that your audience is not your company. Colleagues may be interested in the technicalities and details of certain changes with the company, however, your audiences do not need to read about the nitty gritty points.

Final touches

To conclude any effective press release, make sure you leave some space to remind people of who you are, and any background information that makes your company unique in its field. You should also add some contact information for the journalists or readers to get in touch with someone from your public relations team for further questions e.g an email address or any form of contact information. If once you have finished your news story and covered all the major points, finish your press release with the word End, and think of an attention-grabbing title. Remember that people may only read your title and not your message so you want the overall gist of your press release to be within the few words in your heading!

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Send it out

You are finally done, you are happy with your press release length, you clearly get your message across and you are ready to share the final product with the press. Once everything is in order decide which media outlets would be most suitable for the kind of information you are looking to release. If you are a local business, look into the local press. If you are a specific type of business in a niche speciality, look for specific outlets catered to your field. Make sure you send your announcement to multiple outlets, not just one.

Conclusion

If you wish to share a new piece of information with everyone, take into consideration the tips in this blog post! Keep it short and get straight to the point. 400 words on just one single page is the maximum amount you need. There is no need for extraneous detail when writing an effective press release.