Get Your Story Heard: How to Craft a Winning Press Release
Whether you’re launching a new product, hosting a big event, or hiring an industry-recognized guru, there’s no better publicity for your company than a positive news story (or a few) highlighting your big announcement.
But, how do you get those stories placed? While social media has changed the way brands interact with the media, there’s still value—and opportunity—in traditional PR methods. Enter: the press release. It’s been around for a long time, but a good press release can still be the key to sparking the interest of journalists and news outlets when you’ve got a big announcement, and communicating to them the basic information they need to run a story.
First, though, there are a few things you should know before issuing a release. While many communication tools allow for flexibility and creativity, press releases follow a specific structure. Let’s take a look at a tried-and-true template—one that will ensure you're covering the basics, while arming you with a few suggestions on how to make your release stand out from the pack.
The headline is your announcement in a nutshell. It’s also the first thing the media will see, and the hook that will encourage them to read on (or not). So, take your time crafting a compelling one. Be specific, highlight the most exciting part of your announcement, and save any details for the body of the text.
For example, which headline would you be more inspired to read? "'Stand Up for Start-Ups' Event to Feature 200 Founders from Leading International Start-Ups," or "XYZ Company Announces Event in New York on June 30."
A release should always begin with the state where it’s being distributed and the date you’re sending it, followed by a brief, one-sentence summary of the announcement. This can include information similar to what’s in your headline, just with a bit more detail.
For example, "NEW YORK - MAY 30, 2011 - XYZ Company today announced its first event dedicated to connecting start-up founders from around the world with their innovative, game-changing peers.”
Again, you want to continue to draw the reader in, so keep the opening paragraph simple, to the point, and compelling.
This is the meat of your announcement, and your chance to elaborate on the who, what, where, and why. Write short paragraphs that give all of the key details pertaining to your announcement, ordered with the most relevant points first. This section should be no more than 3-4 paragraphs.
Nearly every press release includes a quote from an expert or high-ranking executive within the company in one of the body paragraphs. This is a great way to not only reiterate your main selling points in the voice of your brand, but adds a human touch to your message as well.
A boilerplate is a standard 3-5 sentence paragraph at the end of the press release that quickly explains who your business is and what it does, so journalists can quickly get up to speed on your brand. A boilerplate usually includes your mission statement, key facts you want to highlight—like your international footprint, awards you've won, or the number of customers you serve—and a link to your website. To note that it’s the boilerplate, simply put the name of your company in bold above it.
Here’s a great example of a boilerplate by start-up Shoptiques:
Shoptiques.com is a first of its kind online marketplace that allows customers to shop unique hand-selected styles from local boutiques around the country. Shoptiques is disrupting the $20 billion online boutique market and eliminating borders for local shopping. Shoptiques.com scours fashion-forward cities to find the most exceptional boutiques to bring online, providing anyone with an internet connection access to unique products. Headquartered in New York City, Shoptiques is funded by Andreessen Horowitz, Greylock Partners, Benchmark Capital, SV Angel, General Catalyst, Charles River Ventures, William Morris Endeavor and Y Combinator. For more information, please visit www.shoptiques.com.
Finally, don't forget the name and contact details of the best person on your team to discuss any questions related to the release. If you’re a small company, it might be you, or it could be your in-house PR representative, external PR agency, or a colleague who you trust to handle media inquiries. Just remember, this person should be fully prepared (and fully available) to answer any questions on your company’s behalf.
While the tradition of drafting and distributing press releases is, well, old, that doesn't mean it should be boring. Here are a few ideas to inspire creative, fresh press releases that can help catch a journalist’s eye:
Photos: Have interesting photos that help people visualize what you're announcing? (For example, a new product.) Include them. Nothing helps tell a narrative like good visuals.
Video: Include a link to a video of one of your executives talking about the announcement, or testimonials from a few happy clients about why they’re excited about what you're launching (with their permission, of course).
Statistics: Journalists love stats, and you should, too—include any percentages or numbers you have that help tell your story. Don’t have any? Build your own. For example, what percent of a publication's 100 top-ranked start-ups is attending the event? If it's an impressive number, stick it in your headline.
Remember, This is Your Brand
Most journalists will contact you should they wish to write a story, but if they’re on a tight deadline or writing a shorter piece, they may simply opt to pull content directly from the press release. Yes—this means that whatever information you provide could make its way to the front page of the Wall Street Journal, and could be quoted directly. So, make sure the facts, details, and statistics you include are not only accurate, but represent your brand and your announcement in the way you want it to be positioned.
So, now that your release is crafted—what do you do with it? Check back in soon for the best ways to get that well-written release into the hands of the journalists you want to see it.
About The Author
Alex Honeysett is a Marketing & Brand Strategist who believes the secret to marketing success is not to sell your soul, lose your sense of humor or shape-shift into a corporate marketing robot -- it's to create a human relationship with your community (strategically!). After spending nearly a decade leading corporate communications strategies for companies including Thomson Reuters and NASDAQ, Alex now helps women entrepreneurs and small businesses create foundational brand, messaging and marketing strategies that leverage all the ways they innately communicate and connect with people and bring those strategies to life. You can learn more about her work (and story!) here: alexhoneysett.com.