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Social Studies | The Press Release

Tools and Tips

May 18, 2020

While a press release (often called news release) is the professional standard for media outreach, the sobering truth is that between 75-95% of press releases aren’t read.

This is likely due to the information overwhelm felt by reporters and the general nature of the flow of information in today’s digital society.

Even if reporters aren’t picking up press releases, they are still extremely valuable to marketers. A press release published on sites such as PR Newswire, Cision or Business Wire has the potential to generate significant organic SEO.

It doesn’t matter if you’re publishing a press release and distributing it to media or if you’re publishing it online – there are three golden rules that must be followed if your press release is going to be picked up.

  1. You must follow the standardized format.
  2. You must keep the content concise and entertaining.
  3. Your press release must have at least one of these elements:
    a. Timeliness (relevant to current events)

    b. Magnitude (degree of effect on people)c. Impact (effect on the public)

    d. Human Interest (appeal to emotions)

    e. Celebrity (involvement of a well-known person)

    f. Proximity (local news that has relevance for a specific community)

    g. Novelty (an interesting and unique story or angle)

So you’ve decided to write a press release – now what?

Remembering the aforementioned statistics about how many press releases end up in the trash, we want to create an entertaining and informative document that will entice reporters to learn more. 400px-Inverted_pyramid_2.svg.png

How do we do this?

By writing according to the inverted pyramid. This method illustrates that the most newsworthy information is the very first content a journalist would read. If they are tempted to learn more, they can continue reading. By beginning the press release with the most relevant information, a reporter doesn’t have to go digging through the document for pertinent information.

Great! So now we know what we’re going to say.. but how do we say it?

As can be expected, there is a specific format required for all press releases. Again, this is so the reporter in a busy and understaffed newsroom can quickly flip through perfectly uniform press releases with ease.

Your press release should be formatted similar to the one seen here, and contain these sections.Screen Shot 2020-01-21 at 10.01.46 AM.png

  1. Add your logo in the header OR use corporate letterhead.
  2. The release date should be bolded and in capital letters. It will list the full date of expected release. Most commonly seen as: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE.
  3. The contact information section is not bolded. Included in this section: your name, your organization, your phone number and your email address.
  4. The headline should be in 14-16 point font and bolded. It should be no more than 8-10 words.
  5. The subhead is written in 12-14 point font (smaller than the headline) and italicized. This short sentence gives more clarity and context on the headline, while still being concise.
  6. The dateline appears in all capital letters at the beginning of the first paragraph. This simply notes the city and province/ state where the press release originated, followed by the date (day, month, year) to avoid confusion.
  7. The lead paragraph is the most important part of the release. It should be no longer than 3 sentences and outlines the “Who, what, where, when, why and how” of the story.
  8. Include 2-3 quotes in the body paragraph from at least 2 sources.
  9. Finish the press release with a boilerplate (short description of the organization) to give readers more context.

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