How to Write a Press Release (That Doesn’t Get Deleted)



Posted: In: Blogs PR Education

The press release has always been a go to staple in the PR pantry. It’s an ingredient nearly every PR pro busts out when they are looking to cook up something great. But if press releases are such key ingredients in PR’s recipe for success, why are so many PR pros continually let down by their performance?

It’s likely because while the PR industry and function have changed dramatically, the press release (and the thinking around it) hasn’t changed much… if at all.

Great cooking, like great PR, requires experimentation, the right ingredients, and perhaps most importantly, creativity. Let’s dig into three steps that will ensure every press release you write whets appetites, satiates story hunger, and leaves ‘em begging for seconds (a.k.a. reporters lined up at your door for more info).

1. Choose wisely.

Press releases can be a significant financial investment and often require a fair amount of human capital to generate with no guarantee of pick-up or other meaningful activities for your brand.

Before deciding to send out a press release, ask yourself three simple questions:

  • Content: What format shall I choose based on the audience I’m trying to reach? (Text, image, video, combo, etc.)
  • Channel: What conduit am I using to deliver my content so I can best reach my target audience? (Earned media, owned media, newswire, direct pitch, etc.)
  • Measurement: How am I defining success? (Story pick up, message pull-through, traffic back to site, etc.)

While your gut may crave a press release, it’s not always going to be the best PR staple to pull off the shelf. Be honest about your end goals so you can choose the channel and content format(s) that give you the greatest odds of success.

2. Lead by example.

Once you’ve decided that short-form text is the ideal format, a newswire is the perfect delivery mechanism, and success would be, for example, four pick-up stories published in target media outlets, it’s time to get cookin’.

To stand out, whip your press release into a multimedia content package equipped with high-res’ images reporters can publish, expert quotes from a range of companies (not just your own), and hopefully a video too.

Part of this preparation process should include collaboration with other in-house cooks. Share the press release with your content team so they can pen a blog post or thought leadership article that expounds on some part of the press release.

Not only does supplemental content provide additional places for prospective journalists to taste your news, it also allows you to dig into an aspect of the news you find particularly compelling while keeping the actual release streamlined and focused. This exercise may create a shining example of the types of stories your release is meant to inspire! (Show, don’t just tell.)

3. Pitch perfect.

Let’s be honest: Most self-respecting journalists aren’t trolling newswires. They’re seeking out thought-provoking nuggets on social media, looking for eye-catching email subject lines, and generally doing everything in their power to avoid reading generic press releases (the white bread of news).

If you want to increase the likelihood of a journalist gobbling up your press release, write a highly personalized pitch. Personalized pitches require that you (the PR pro) do your homework.

Review author pages and read content by specific journalists to understand how they like to construct stories. Are they more into quotes or unique data sets? Perhaps compelling visuals are their jam. Figure out what interests them and offer it up on a silver platter!

Great writers and journalists can turn solid facts and advice into thoughtful pieces. Get them 75% of the way there with the data and info needed for a compelling story and I promise the odds of your story being published increases exponentially.

So, what’s the recipe for success?

Think strategically before deciding a press release is the way to achieve your public relations goals, include key info and multimedia assets, and invest time and energy into targeting and personalizing  your pitches.

A great press release doesn’t have to be complicated, it just has to be appetizing.

Press release workflow

This post kicks off our four-part series on optimizing public relations fundamentals. Tune in next week when PR Engineer Kelly Byrd shares how to use data to ensure content success.