How to Write a Press Release?

More than 12,000 times every month How to Write a Press Release is searched on Google, delivering more than 49 million search results. Is that the right question to ask? What about “are press releases effective?” That will yield more than 484 million results for you.

This isn’t one of those “the press release is dead” posts, because I personally don’t think they will die anytime soon. It’s just one tool of many we have to choose from today for communicating with audiences.

Off the top of my head, I can think of three great uses for press releases today:

  • Strong news with broad interest – if you have a strong human interest story for broad consumption, a press release is still highly-effective for generating national coverage. I came across a company the other day that has invented a way to diagnose breast cancer from human tears – that’s a story I could see working well in a press release form.
  • Direct-to-consumer news – some organizations are using press releases effectively for communicating directly to their audiences. There are some instances where you don’t need publicity coverage, but rather want to announce something to people following your organization. While a blog might be a better vehicle for this, a second option would be a direct-to-consumer news release – a grand opening or product launch are both good examples.
  • SEO-PR – a release designed to help you increase the number of inbound links to a particular page on your website or blog. This approach is not as effective as it used to be, but for an organization just starting out with a new website, this is one of the fastest ways to kick-start an SEO effort.

Alternatives to Press Releases

 

While there is still value in the press release as a PR or online marketing tactic, there are more effective options for communicating with external audiences. For starters, your blog should be the new place you break news. Look at how organizations like Google or Twitter announce new products or major company announcements – they post to their blogs. Google doesn’t formally issue any press releases. They don’t need to, their audiences subscribe to their blogs.

Blogs are very effective platforms for announcing your news, because they come with built-in analytics and sharing capabilities most traditional news releases don’t (at least not for free). Once you post to your blog, people can easily link to, share, or comment on your post instantly. This is the fastest option for getting your announcement into the hands of people most likely to pass the word along. You’ll also have access to real-time information on your reach through any standard Web analytics package, such as Google analytics.

Only Big Organizations Can Get Away With This, Right?

 

Sure, if you’re Google or Twitter you can get your news out the door without a press release, because everyone is waiting for it. What if you’re a small organization? The same advice holds true. I know from firsthand experience. When we recently announced ExpertTweet, our free Twitter expert-finding service, we used this blog, Twitter and a press release issued through PRWeb to get the word out. All the coverage we generated for the announcement came from those reading our blog posts and tweets.

No publicity came as a direct result of our press release. There are several organizations I’m familiar with that rely heavily on their blogs and social media to release news these days – because it works better and faster than press releases.

Industry Consensus

 

What does the rest of the industry think? A recent poll conducted by Ragan Communications and PollStream found that 49% of today’s professional communicators think press releases are “as useful as ever,” but a third of respondents admit the press release is “a necessary evil that won’t go away soon.”

There have been several studies done in recent years that support the diminished effectiveness of press releases, but as always, it depends on the quality and relevance of information communicated in press release form. If your story stinks, it’s not going to get attention in press release or tweet form.

Where Do We Go From Here?

If you’re one of those organizations writing and distributing press releases because it’s the way you’ve always done things, maybe it’s time for you to evaluate your approach. Could you leverage your blog or other social media more effectively to reach your audience? If you’re one of the thousands of people searching for “how to write a press release” each month, maybe you should spend your time searching for how to setup and manage your company blog more effectively?

Do you still rely on press releases for all your news? How effective are press releases for generating publicity coverage? Are you using blogs and other social media with greater frequency? Share your thoughts.

(Image Credit: Writing Effective News Releases / Amazon.com)

About Jeremy Porter 214 Articles
Jeremy Porter has been passionate about the intersection of public relations and journalism since studying both Public Relations and Journalism at Utica College of Syracuse University in the late 90s. Porter launched Journalistics in 2009 to share his ideas and insights around both professions and how trends and developments in modern day marketing, communications, and technology impact those working in these fields. Porter also values the traditions and history of both professions and regularly shares his perspective in these areas - and related topics geared toward the next generation of journalism and public relations professionals.

15 Comments

  1. I’ve found press releases to be effective only on rare occasions. I’ve found that a press release needs to be perfectly timed to generate any media attention – and sometimes even perfect timing will not get the message across. We write our releases with our direct audience in mind and post them on our Web site. However, moving more toward a newsroom style blog – similar to those kept by Google and Twitter – might be a good way to continue releasing news as it occurs. Organizations that choose that method of blogging will have to redefine the use of their blogs to ensure their posts get the attention and attitude they seek, and remain true to that persona on their blogs.

  2. Jeremy, great post about a subject we have been dealing with lately – when is a press release the way to go. I think your examples are good. We find that the classic press release style is often a good way to get started; to organize the facts – then, we focus on the newsworthiness of it and how best to make it exciting to the intended audience. Often that draft can be edited to become a blog entry, an article and more.

  3. As a reporter who sees many of the press releases that get sent to my newsroom, I find the biggest problem is that press releases are sent too late for the media outlet to do anything effective with the announcement. This is not seen just among the volunteer groups, but is shockingly common among pros as well.

    If you are pitching a story, I think you ought to be aware of the publication or broadcast cycles for the media you are reaching out to. Work ahead of those cycles. Don’t send me an event announcement a day after it should have run in the newspaper to reach your intended demographic. Your marketing effort will not be as effective if you miss the deadline for best placement.

    Now in the meantime, I do appreciate finding press release archives on the corporate web sites or corporate blogs. If there is a business or retail headline that interests me, I often look on line for the original source. Corporate site archives – regardless of the format – are very helpful for this.

  4. Thanks, Jeremy! This was helpful. I wrote about this topic, but in a different way, last week after hearing someone on a Webinar say that the only way to contact journalists with news was through a press release. Here are my thoughts on that: http://buildbuzz.blogspot.com/2009/11/is-one-one-one-contact-with-journalist.html.

    I think press releases still serve an important purpose but I agree with you — the news should be released simultaneously on the company’s blog and through Twitter, etc. Many of us who write for a living expect to see press release content there as well as in the company’s online press room.

    Great post — thanks again!

  5. We can now post press releases on our community blogs and news website so most of the things that come into our newsroom can be used in some way. But please, source a photo that is interesting to send along with your release. The best releases come from the Oregon Zoo (Portland) because they always include a nice photo that supports the subject and immediately makes us want to post them online and tweet about it.

  6. Some good points here. I just wrote a post related to this topic as well. http://messagecom.wordpress.com/2009/11/24/media-relations-basics-still-apply/.

    I think a media release has value but it’s important to think beyond the release itself. It’s a tool but it’s not a strategy to reach the media. Just as important as the release is following up with specific journalists to make a tailored pitch about your story. Sending out a release without follow up and providing news outlets with further context is not likely to result in coverage.

    I also agree with the comment about the media release helping the organization formulate its message about the issue, product or service. From here, you can re-purpose the content of the release for the company website and social media avenues.

  7. There are four reasons, not three. For a public company to communicate material information, an announcement issued over one of the two commercial newswire services is the only legitimate way to satisfy disclosure requirements.

    StevenSilvers.com
    Field notes on public relations & crisis management

  8. To get in the media you need to write your news release, blog or whatever in newspaper style. That’s the trick. That’s the language media folks understand whether they are in print,TV or radio. Yet 99.9% of news releases that I see are not written that way so it’s no wonder 484 million are asking whether they are effective.

  9. Press releases today are a matter of doing more with more–a mere starting point for communications professionals, even before wide distribution. From a standard, content rich document in which a wide range of information has been culled and edited to the most salient points of interest, one now has a lead for their organization’s blog post (first paragraph), a post for the org’s Twitter account (headline), a post to the CEO’s Linked-In page (supporting quotation), alternative pitches and posts (supporting paragraphs), and HTML-rich content that links incessantly to various pages on the org’s website (and at times the websites of partners). And, as @MonroeonaBudget noted, it is prime archive fodder to feed journalists/background checks, company histories and consumers.

  10. great post. writing a press release is not an easy task, and one has to stick to certain “industry-standards”. writing it is one thing, but distributing it is another. there are a couple of pr distribution services out there on the net, some for free, some are paid. I tried to provide a list of pr distribution sites that i used in the past and summed them up here: http://www.bestpressreleasesites.com
    would be happy to get any feedback

  11. Great article Jeremy. Although press releases might not be that effective any more there are several occasions when it could be useful specially if you are lunching a new start up and do not have any visitors and the links can help you with SEO. Anyway since the headline is so important to grab the readers attention is it valid or better yet useful to name your competitors in it?
    I was think a headline for my new startup something along the line of “A new start up is out to compete with twitterfeed”
    It could catch peoples attention but I don’t know if this could be seen as too aggressive.
    Any ideas?

  12. “a release designed to help you increase the number of inbound links to a particular page on your website or blog. ”
    Writing a comment on a press release that is relative to the topic of your blog and audience does provide good information to your readers and thereby serve a good purpose.

    The SEO benefits of keyword use around press release still gains leverage.

    I appreciate this post for the reminder that press releases provide a specific service to both the reader and company. Also, that you point out the necessity for congruence between this media and activity in social media.

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