Using a press release format which journalists recognize increases your chances of media coverage. We’ve already talked about the ideal press release length. Today let’s talk about the elements you need to include so that you can sell your story well.
The average journalist receives 200 pitches or more every day. Journalists don’t want to go digging through your press release for the pertinent details. They need ready-made stories in a format they know.
Before we get into the recommended press release format, you need to understand two things. Firstly, you need to know what a press release is. Secondly, you need to know what a press release is not.
What is a press release?
A press release is a document which helps you to share a newsworthy story about your company with journalists. It’s also known as a “press statement”, “news release” or “media release.” Beyond simply communicating your news, a press release should also make a journalist’s work easier.
What a press release is not
To write a press release which journalists will read, you need to know what to avoid. A press release is not:
- A soapbox for your company founder. A press release is not a place for blatant advertising. You need to remain objective, while still highlighting the pertinent information.
- Your company’s life story. If you spend a lot of time talking about your company history, you will only waste valuable space.
- Your company’s accomplishment board. Of course, you need to highlight your expertise, but focus on relevant accomplishments.
Now let’s talk about your press release format. To write the perfect press release, there are some tips you should keep in mind from the start. For starters, you need to think about the layout of your press release as well as your notations.
General layout guidelines
- At least a 1-inch margin on all sides of your text
- 12 point font size
- A common font like Arial, Helvetica or Times New Roman
- Single spacing, with 3-4 sentences per paragraph
- A centred headline
- Left-alignment for the main body
- One page at the most
General notation guidelines
- Use of abbreviations. If you’re using a long name several times, then you can abbreviate it. Use the full name the first time you mention it and put the abbreviation in brackets. Afterwards, you can abbreviate.
- Use of pronouns. Speaking in first person undermines your objectivity. Only use “I” and “we” in quotes.
- Use of dates. When you’re mentioning a specific date, also specify what year you’re referring to. This way, readers will be clear on your meaning.
With these guidelines in mind, let’s dive into the actual press release format.
So, what is the correct press release format then?
To answer this question effectively, we will break the press release down into its elements.
The first element of your press release should be a header in the top left corner. The standard header says “For Immediate Release” or “Press Release” in capital letters. A journalist reading this will assume they can publish a story about you immediately.
However, sometimes you are making your announcement in advance. In this case, you can ask the journalist to hold off writing a story until a particular date. To do this, say “Embargoed for Release Until Day, Month Date, Year, at Time, Timezone.”
Embargoed for Release Until Friday, August 28, 2020 at 2p.m., PST
Alternatively, you can say, “Under Embargo Until Day, Month Date, Year, at Time, Timezone.”
Under Embargo Until Friday, August 28, 2020 at 2 p.m., PST
ii. Company logo
A logo is a functional part of the press release format. This is because it highlights your brand. You can display this at the top of your text, where it will gain the most attention.
When you’re sending your press release, include your logo in a separate file. This helps journalists when they’re writing their story. They can use a high quality image instead of a copy of your logo.
Your headline is the first tool you can use to entice your reader. It therefore plays a key role in press release format. A good headline should be catchy enough to create curiosity. This is the first place where journalists look to get a hint of what your news is, so it pays to spend time developing it.
A headline which is well thought out should also work well as the subject line of your email pitch. It’s also important to mention your brand in the headline. This way, a journalist immediately knows who the story is about.
So as to help it stand out, you should make your headline bigger than the rest of your content. Use 13 or 14 point font, make the text bold and centre it to increase its prominence. Keep your headline to 10 words or less so that you’re concise. In addition, an effective headline uses action words and covers 4 or 5 news points from your story.
The headline is where you hook your reader, but the subtitle is where you win them over. Your subtitle goes under your headline, in italics and left-aligned. In essence, the use of a subtitle is to explain your headline by offering further details. This way, your reader knows the gist of your story before they even get to the body.
Another important element of the press release format is the where and when of your story. Your dateline addresses this by mentioning both the city and the date. An example of a dateline is SAN FRANCISCO, August 19, 2020. Place an em dash (–) after your dateline, then you can jump right into the next element.
SAN FRANCISCO, August 19, 2020 – XYZ Clothing Co. has launched…
The lead, also known as the opening paragraph, gives you room to cover the 5Ws of your story. In other words, your lead is where you talk about the “Who”, “What”, “When”, “Where” and “Why.” A strong lead covers at least 5 news points from your announcement in 25 words at most.
vii. Main body
A good headline and subtitle combination is not all you need for success. The structure of your body is an equally important part of the recommended press release format. In general, your content should be straightforward and free of jargon. This section mimics the structure of an inverted pyramid as follows:
- The climax of your story comes in the beginning (the lead)
- The lead mentions the most important facts
- The lead answers who, what, when, where, why and – occasionally – how
- The most important paragraphs appear at the top
Why is this news relevant? Your 2nd paragraph answers this question by providing a context for your story. This is also a great place to use the art of newsjacking.
Newsjacking is connecting your story to a trending topic. Alternatively, you can use your story to comment on an ongoing news story. When done well, newsjacking is a foolproof way to convince a reader your story is relevant.
It’s a good idea to use this section of the press release format to insert a quote from your brand’s spokesperson. A quote not only gives your company a personality, but also gives the reader a human perspective. In your quote, you can explain how your news affects the wider industry. Similarly, you can talk about how it benefits the world.
The quote is the only place in your press release where you can safely express opinions without sacrificing objectivity. Introduce your spokesperson in full, using their name, title and company. This will lend credibility to your news. As with other sections of your press release, avoid using jargon.
Finally, use your 4th paragraph to offer more facts, stats and figures. You want the reader to understand what makes your business so special.
viii. Closing paragraph
This is the best place to tell your target audience how your news will affect them. To do this, use this space to highlight future implications. If you have future business plans related to your announcement, then you can mention them here.
There are a few more elements which go into the recommended press release format. In essence, this is the icing on your cake.
The purpose of your boilerplate is to explain what makes your brand a reliable thought leader. Use this space to highlight your company background. Of course, it might also be helpful to mention how long you’ve been in business. If your company has won relevant awards or accolades, mention them here.
In some cases, your press release focuses on more than one company. A good example of this is if your news is about a merger. If this is the case, each company needs their own boilerplate.
x. Contact details
To make good use of this section, pick a media representative from your company. Ideally, this should be the spokesperson you quoted earlier. Alternatively, you can pick a third-party spokesperson. Regardless of who your media representative is, list their email address and phone number.
In this section, you should also include a maximum of 3 social media handles. These should be the platforms where your brand is the most active.
xi. The end
Most people will read your press release on a screen, so it’s important to mark the end of your news. You do this by typing “###” or “-30-” at the bottom. Align this at the centre of your page. In case your press release spills over onto a second page, you need to say “MORE” at the bottom of the first page.
xii. Note to editors
If you have additional notes or stats which are relevant to your story, then a “Note to editors” section is useful. Here you can also include information about other companies you’ve mentioned. In addition, you can expand on specific studies you’ve quoted.
xiii. Multimedia elements
Nothing turns a reader off more than paragraphs and paragraphs of information. Hence, if you can substitute some text with visuals, your press release will be more appealing. Include multimedia content in your press release and you will stand out.
We live in a world where people are constantly sharing photos, memes and videos with family and friends. Journalists write stories for the same people. For this reason, multimedia content will sell your story better and increase the chances of a journalist picking it up.
Let’s explore the various multimedia elements you can make use of:
Images and infographics
You can use images and infographics to break down complex information like stats. This makes it easier for your reader to understand what you’re trying to say.
Videos simplify information and can be embedded into your press release to provide additional details. According to a 2020 survey, videos also help brands connect with people.
Hyperlinks are useful tools for getting the press release format and length right. You can post additional information on a landing page or a blog post. Then you can backlink to your website from your press release. This will help people who are interested in reading more.
Social share buttons
In this day and age, 55% of adults consume news on social media. Therefore, adding social share buttons to your press release will help your story travel far and wide. The goal is to go where your target audience is and to make it easy for them to share your news.
A press release can earn you impressive media coverage if you do it right. We’ve walked you through each element of the recommended press release format. With the above tips in mind, you should be all set to write the best press release for your business.
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