How to Write a Press Release and Why It’s Still Valuable

By Shannon Tucker
Shannon is a former high school teacher turned PR expert with a passion for teaching, creating & coaching. She has a master’s degree in Strategic Public Relations from the Graduate School of Political Management at George Washington University in DC.
 

“Are press releases dead?” In the 10+ years I have been working in PR, this is a popular question I receive from clients. Do press releases work? Are they worth the money? Have press releases lost their magic?

No, press releases aren’t dead and yes, press releases do work, but only if used correctly.

Press releases by themselves are not going to result in much – if any – media coverage. The press release might get picked up in some news outlets, but it’s not going to be enough to make much of a difference for your company.

But there are three important reasons to issue a press release:

Shape the story you want a reporter to write through your press release.

If your PR person pitches the reporter a story and they express interest, the press release helps them write their story – it gives them quotes to use, data points to pull from and key messages to include. Consider the press release sort of like a road map for the reporter as they write the story. According to Cision’s 2019 Global State of the Media report, when asked what type of content they want to receive from brands, 71% of journalists said news announcements and press releases. Reporters do read them. Sometimes they pull content verbatim from the press release.

It serves as official and historical record of company news and changes.

With company or board turnover, it’s not always easy to know what has been done in the past. Press releases, especially when they live on the company website, keep professional documentation of what the company has done and how it was done.

A steady stream of news announcements signifies to your stakeholders a healthy, credible and growing company.

If your company was struggling, it probably wouldn’t be issuing announcements of new hires or recently released surveys.

So, how do you write a press release that actually gets read?

  • First, ask: Does this warrant a press release? Have some real talk. Is this topic actually newsworthy? You might think the luncheon you’re hosting for cow lovers in Iowa is worthy of a press release and New York Times coverage, but it’s not. We live in a time of fake news – make sure you have something real and relevant to say.

  • Include data or a statistic in the headline of your press release. Simply put, it will perform better. Numbers indicate to the reader that the release actually includes, well, news.

  • Say good-bye to jargon. Reporters, consumers and pretty much any human with a pulse hates it. Some of my favorites that creep up in press releases: “data-driven,” “exclusive,” “groundbreaking,” “pushing the envelope” and “state-of-the-art.”

  • Don’t quote stack. It’s not okay to have a quote, then another quote, then another quote without transitions. That’s the sign of a poorly written release, just trying to check the boxes by including the three people who are required to make statements.

  • Subject lines are everything – but know your audience. When sending your news release via email to a reporter, you must do something different. Try including an emoji (I’m serious, it works – we’ve seen higher open rates), but don’t try it with the reporter known for being buttoned up.

Press releases are not dead, just make sure you’re doing them right.

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