Press Release Tips from 16 PR Pros Who Know Best

Claire Brenner
Claire Brenner  |  September 21, 2018

Some people say the press release is dead.

Do you know what I say to those people?

They’re writing the wrong press release.

When properly constructed, a press release can be your key to getting featured in top-tier publications and noticed by well-respected journalists.

But the keyword there is properly.

Journalists receive dozens (and that’s probably an understatement) of press releases in their inbox every single day. Will yours stand apart from the rest? Or be sent to the dreaded trash bin, never to be seen again (and certainly, never to be written about).

Luckily, you don’t need to do your own research on how to write a press release. We’ve done it for you! And gathered top-notch advice from more than a dozen public relations professionals on everything from boilerplates to event press releases.

Next time you’re writing and pitching any of these types of press releases, keep in mind the following advice.

Then, sit back and watch the media coverage come through.

Press Release Tips from PR Professionals

We asked PR professionals their best advice on writing press releases that perform. Here's what they had to say.  

Press Release Tip #1

Do everything you can to show that you know the publication you're pitching, so your press release looks less like a generic mass e-mail. For example, when I send press releases to industry magazines, I might change up the subject line and first paragraph depending on whether the magazine is for the plumbing, HVAC, or electrical industry.

Make it as easy as you can for journalists who receive your press release. Writers these days have to generate ideas and work fast, so if you can include a few good article/post ideas that can be very helpful—just a headline and quick description of the idea and how you can help. Make sure the ideas aren't all about you, you, you, but would incorporate different viewpoints/products including yours. So instead of Why our wedding website is the leading website in the industry, you could try Top 10 Ways to Avoid Wedding Scams (where of course one piece of advice might be to go to your website to vet vendors).

Linda Formichelli, Inbound Content Manager at Commusoft 

Press Release Tip #2

My advice on press releases: Capture the whole story in the headline/subhead. Avoid effusive self-congratulation. Have a killer boilerplate.

Hugh S. Moore, Vice President at Broadsheet Communications

Press Release Tip #3

  • Aim for a headline that is provocative and SEO-friendly and assumes that most journalists will not read past the first paragraph. Additionally, aim to make the case about why this news is a big deal by making the first paragraph answer the Who, What, Why, and Where of journalism in easy to understand English - free of jargon and marketing language
  • When at all possible add third-party quotes. Customers are the most important, followed by analysts, influencers, and experts.
  • Generally, the length of a release should be determined by the quality of the story. If the information is timely and interesting, it doesn't matter how long the release is
  • And, of course, I also stress quality and accuracy in my releases. I think that sloppy, error-ridden releases annoy journalists, who don't have the time to edit. The best approach is to make the release information accurate – otherwise, yours will be the first release deleted from consideration

Tricia Heinrich, Chief Content Officer at Bospar 

Press Release Tip #4

Don’t just announce news; put it in context. Ask yourself and others: why is this important and why should people care? This will help you write a really relevant release that’s not just inwardly focused.

If possible, tie the news to a trend or current event. For example, when announcing a prescription drug management solution, discuss the number of opioid deaths that happen in your area that could be prevented with the solution.

Include a meaty quote from someone outside your company, such as an industry expert, government official, customer or investor.

Mara Conklin at Clarus Communications

Press Release Tip #5

In order for a release to have value outside of just being company news, it has to tie to larger events and trends that are happening in the world. Try to connect your news to the bigger picture by using external data. Also, make sure that the quotes from the principals don't just repeat the news of the release but also add value and insights into how this news is relevant beyond their own company. How will the news impact customers and end users?

Deidre Woollard at Lion & Orb PR 

Press Release Tip #6

The true purpose of a press release is to communicate that you or your business has a genuine news story to share. If you start from this position you’re on the right track, if you just release a list of information in the vain hope you’ll get a free plug, you’ll fail.

A quality press release should help a journalist to do their job. Don’t make life hard for them. Journalists are incredibly time poor and overloaded with dumb ass pitches. You need to stand out from the crowd with a compelling and well-written story.

To do this ensures your press release has a killer headline – one with a genuine news angle. What do I mean by this? Well, news is something that is new – it’s got to have the wow factor. If you don’t have this, don’t create a press release.

Your intro paragraph is crucial – spend 90 percent of your time to get this right – this needs to be your entire story in less than 25 words. Make it strong but avoid hyperbole and exaggeration. That’s a major turn off for a reporter.

Next. you can elaborate on the facts behind your story and then introduce quotes from a key spokesperson that explain the ‘why’ and the passion behind your story.

The absolute key takeaway is that the release MUST have news value relevant to the journalist you are pitching to, otherwise it will be headed for the junk folder.

Alistair Clay, Founder at Class:PR

Press Release Tip #7

  • Think like a reporter or assignment editor. What is the most interesting thing in your press release? Put that in your headline.
  • Just the facts, ma'am. Don't editorialize or get too clever with the language. Save that for your pitch.
  • Think visually. Your press release should create a picture that members of the media will be interested in seeing. Provide the facts, but while you are doing that, paint the visuals that get journalists salivating over broadcast ratings and digital reach.

Carol Rose at Marketing Worx PR

Press Release Tip #8

When writing a press release, find the story within the story. For example, if you are giving a donation to a charitable cause, highlight the charity and explain what it plans to do with the donation and how it will make a difference. Include photos with your press release so that reporters have art to use with your release should they choose to write about it. Think in terms of providing a package of storytelling, quotes, and photos to make a reporter’s job of covering your press release as easy as possible

Chris Cline, Media Relations Specialist at Veterans United Home Loans

Press Release Tip #9

Journalists are busy, so I recommend following the T.R.U.E method for writing press releases. This ensures that you deliver the best value to media outlets and improve your placement conversions.

Trending – Tie your press release to a trending topic

Relatable – Have an audience in mind when drafting the press release

Unique – Offer a new perspective or data that others haven't covered yet

Exclusive – Offer access to an insider for exclusive quotes

Jonas Sickler, Marketing Director at ReputationManagement.com

Press Release Tip #10

The most effective press releases build a narrative around an announcement. What do I mean by that? Well, think about a company that’s invented a new heart valve and has just launched it.

A standard press release might announce the new product and talk about how many lives it’ll save. That’s great and it’ll get some column inches. However, you’re leaving it up to the journalist to either build a story around it or keep it short.

A really good press release, on the other hand, will include information on the founder’s motivations, the product and the company’s goals for the future. For example, maybe the founder’s father died of heart disease and he or she wants to bring this product to market to save other people.

David Vallance, Communications Officer at LeaseFetcher 

Press Release Tip #11

  • Grab attention with your headline: similar to the old adage a picture is worth a thousand words, so is a good headline. It should give journalists enough information to know exactly what your press release is about while also piquing their interest to continue reading.
  • Data, data and, more data: provide media outlets with stats and any proprietary research that can help prove why your release is newsworthy. If the journalist doesn't immediately cover your news, they may still use your data down the road increasing your chances for additional exposure.
  • Know Your soundbites: similar to broadcast interviews, journalists are always looking for interesting quotes and POVs from experts in the industry. Take some time to make sure any quotes within your press release are providing unique and interesting information in a way that's also personable and provides some color behind the brand or news you're sharing.

Kristen Lueck, Director of Editorial Communications & Digital Marketing at Remedy Review

Press Release Tip #12

  • Create a headline that grabs the attention of the writer or reporter by conveying the most essential information about your Product, Service, New Division, Event, etc.
  • Include statistics or trends that connects with the subject or topic. This helps with credible positioning of the final piece and can save the Reporter or Writer reviewing your Press Release valuable time in meeting their deadline
  • Include a direct quote from one or two of the major players of a company, event producer, sponsor, or speaker. This can add additional credibility to your press release
  • Make sure the press release is grammatically correct, error-free, and doesn’t have long wordy paragraphs. The first paragraph should have important facts that answer: who, what, when, where, and why. Also, if a press release is too long, sometimes it won’t get read
  • Make sure the contact information section has up-to-date information making it clear that you are available to answer additional questions that the writer or reporter may need

Debra Dixon-Anderson, Founder and CEO at Light of Gold PR, Marketing, and Consulting LLC

Press Release Tip #13

Before writing the press release, research should be done on what the media has been covering in recent weeks or months. Re-angle your press release to discuss how your new product, service, or award is relevant to the issue. Remember that journalists don't care about your product or your company (unless you are an industry giant), so you have to make them understand the value of your press release in the context of the whole industry

Jomel Alos, Online PR Lead at Spiralytics

Press Release Tip #14

The structure of a press release is one of the most important aspects. Start with an opener that grabs attention and instantly communicates the most pertinent message. Then step back and go into more detail about the news/event/product, keeping things concise and relevant to your target audience. Finally, close with a call to action or the message you want to leave in the mind of the reader – this can even mirror your opening sentence to really drive the message home.

Alex Barber, PR Manager at The Pen Warehouse

Press Release Tip #15

One way to make your press release unique is to use a statistic that is provoking, runs counter to conventional thought, is interesting or humorous. A stat like that can make your headline pop and grab the media's attention. Another way to ensure your press release gets attention is through the use of shareable multimedia. Telling your story through visuals, such as infographics or videos, is a compelling way to get the attention you deserve. Lastly, speaking of videos, you could turn your press release into a short video! This provides a creative way to show the media your story.

Alexis Bealer, Account Associate at McGrath/Power Public Relations

Press Release Tip #16

How you choose to write your headline depends on your distribution strategy. Will you be posting it up on newswire or will be you targeting specific media outlets/journalist? If you're going to use newswire and similar press release distribution platforms, then you want to keep the headline with a general interest, not diving in too deeply to a niche-specific aspect of the release. Have it target the general audience instead of your primary audience. Keeping it somewhat general will ensure your release won't be disregarded by journalists who don't typically cover your industry as easily.

If you're targeting specific outlets (or even better journalists), then you can get a bit more creative. Look into what some of their recent articles have been covering, as well as which ones have been viewed or shared online the most. Then see if there's a correlation between those articles and your press release. If there is, make sure your headline reflects the connection. An outlet or journalist will be aware of which of their pieces are doing well in regards to readership and will be more likely to write a story about your release if it touches on what's been performing well that week.

Alex Belanger, Digital PR Coordinator at seoplus+

Did we miss your favorite tip? 

Are we missing your favorite piece of advice on writing press releases? Tweet it to me at @Claire_Brenner and we’ll add it to the list! And if you want even more, be sure to check out our ultimate guide on how to write a press release

See you next time!

 

Claire Brenner
Author

Claire Brenner

Claire is a senior content marketing specialist who came to G2 Crowd after graduating from the University of Dayton with a BA in Communication. Born and raised in the Chicago area, her brief stint in Ohio gave her a new appreciation for deep-dish pizza, but left her well-versed in Cincinnati-style chili and "cities" with a population fewer than 400,000. While not writing, Claire can be found practicing calligraphy and planning her next trip.