How To Write A Press Release: 6 Tips To Start Writing Breaking News That Captivates Readers

Dickie Bush & Nicolas Cole

Ultimate Guide Table of Contents

Today we want to share 6 tips for writing a press release.

When it comes to writing a press release, the details are more important than you may realize.

Fortunately, you can start breaking news with confidence as we guide you through how to write a good press release for events, businesses, and products.

Let’s dive in.

What Exactly Are Press Releases?

A press release is a message designed to attract media attention.

In analog days, a press release was a “release” to the press. You sent a press release (usually via fax) to get the media to write about you. The goal was to promote significant company news.

  • It had to be “newsworthy”
  • Only a select few journalists would see it
  • It was THE way customers could learn about your company

But the internet changed the rules and the primary audience is no longer a handful of journalists.  

Today the audience is anyone searching on Google, scrolling their Twitter feed, or following updates from their favorite brands on Linkedin. Literally millions of people can see a press release at internet speed.

And a modern press release is just another form of Digital Writing.

What Does A Press Release Look Like?

A press release looks like an article.

The following key elements are included in a press release:

  • Title: Grab the reader’s attention and tell them what they will get.
  • Main Points: The “meat” of the release. This is your announcement.
  • CTA (optional): Where you want to direct the reader’s attention.
  • Bio: Tell the reader who you are and what you do.

Below is Twitter’s press release announcing Elon Musk’s bid to purchase Twitter.

Common Use Cases For Press Releases

The most common press release announcements include:

  • An event
  • Securing funding
  • Forming a partnership
  • New product or service launch
  • Customer or acquisition milestone

But not everything that falls into the above list is necessarily newsworthy. And there are some instances when an article or tweet may be more appropriate.

For example, announcing that your company holiday party is happening on December 15th—that’s NOT newsworthy.

But announcing you are hosting a launch event to showcase the latest release of your product and Jay-Z will be MC’ing-—now that’s newsworthy.

Here is a quick checklist to evaluate the press “worthiness” of your message:

  • Is the message urgent news?
  • Does the message cover a well-known topic?
  • Will someone be affected by the announcement?

If your press release doesn’t hit on one or more of these, consider holding it back.

Learning How to Start Writing a Press Release is More Important Than You Realize. Here’s Why

Press releases are a necessary part of modern marketing.

  • Your company does something interesting
  • You want your target audience to know about it
  • You need a way to reach as many people as you can

Most companies will post an update to their blog, include a snippet in their newsletter, and add a post on their LinkedIn page. You should do this, but organic reach is limited to your current followers and whatever promotion the social algorithm chooses to award. Which is why it’s worth pushing out a press release for some major announcements.

Sending a press release has an exponential network effect.

  • You or a public relations “PR” specialist write the press release
  • You distribute your press release to a publisher, like PR Newswire
  • The publisher then distributes it to hundreds of thousands of media outlets

Which means you need to be crystal clear, so that your message maintains its potency when a journalist writes about your release or a reader discovers it.

Unfortunately the way companies write their press releases often leaves a lot to be desired. It’s not just an issue of style—it's also one of substance. They are often so full of fluff and self-congratulation that they're meaningless.

So, if you want to catch the eye of a journalist and up your chances of getting quoted in a news article, you have to get clear on EXACTLY what you are writing about.

Digital Writing principles apply.

How To Write A Press Release: Step-by-Step Guide With Tips for Writing a Press Release

A good press release will be short (1-2 paragraphs), informative, engaging and persuasive.

It should be written in a way that grabs the reader's attention immediately, creates interest in what is being offered and, when appropriate, makes them want to take action (like visit your website or call you).

In Ship 30 for 30, we call this an Atomic Essay.

Let’s break it down.

Step 1: What Are You Announcing?

We're going to start with the most basic question: what are you announcing?

  • A new product?
  • A new partnership?
  • A change in ownership?

If you don't know what you want to say, then how can anyone else? Your audience shouldn't have to guess why you've chosen to distribute a press release.

Once you have an answer to this question, write it down and keep it front and center so that it's clear for you and everyone involved in the process what you are announcing.

Step 2: Bypass The Media

Think like a publisher.

In the digital world, your company is a publisher.  It’s no longer just the newspapers and magazines that publish the news. You have the power to design, deliver, and publish content to a highly targeted audience.

Think about who will be reading the press release and why they will want to read it.

Most consumers don’t want to read a formal press release. If you announce that you can "automate data access controls,” your buyer will check out. Instead, highlight the benefits: "Access your data from anywhere without worrying about hackers, even in your local coffee shop."

When you know what compels your customer and then speak directly to them in your press release, they’ll be ready to listen.

Step 3: Craft A Compelling Headline

A good headline is crucial for grabbing a journalist or reader’s attention. If your headline does not capture the reader, your press release will go unread.

These are the five things that you need to specify in your headline:

  • Who is this about?
  • What do people need to know?
  • Where did or is this taking place?
  • When did or when will things happen?
  • Why should the reader care about this?

Make the headline easy to understand. If people don’t understand what you are saying in the headline, they won't read what you have to say.

Step 4: Get Straight To Your Point

Once you have identified who is going to read the press release and why they might be interested in reading it, think about what information needs to be included.

You are pitching journalists, so give them what they want.

  • Quotes
  • Hard facts
  • Detailed statistics
  • Exclusive research

What are the main points that need to be communicated in order for them to understand what is happening or why they should care about it? Keep these points short and concise so that they are easy for readers to digest quickly.  

Aim to include the most pertinent details at the top, and then get into the less vital aspects as you go on.

Note: Make a list of all the words everyone else uses in their press releases. Now say what you want to say without using any of those words. Avoid jargon.

Step 5: Write A Catchy Boilerplate

A boilerplate is the “About Us” section of your press release.

This is everything about your business in one short paragraph. It includes a summary of your business mission, vision, goals, value proposition, and accomplishments.

In this section you should:

  • Include contact details
  • Focus on your product or service benefits
  • Encourage readers to connect with your brand

Once this section is created, you can reuse it in all your press releases.

Step 6: Make It Easy To Read

Formatting a press release properly is an essential part of the process.

The way your words look on the page affects reader perception of what they are reading. A journalist's job is to gather information and present it in an engaging way, but they don't want to spend hours on understanding your release in order to build their own story. So when you format your press release poorly, journalists are more likely to ignore it.

The best way to ensure that your press release is read by a journalist is to make it easy for them to understand.

  • Use strong single sentence openers: In the beginning, this should be a compelling statement about the product or event that gives readers a reason to keep reading. Then write a single sentence to lead into any new ideas.
  • Make it skimmable: Journalists don't have time to read long-winded releases. Keep it to one page at most (two pages if necessary). Use bullets for lists, avoid big blocks of text, and bold subheads to help readers know where they are in the announcement.
  • Include images (when possible): Illustrate concepts, processes, and relationships that are difficult or impossible to describe in words alone with an image.

Do what’s best for the reader and you will be rewarded with more engagement.

Press Release Template You Can Follow Yourself

This template can be used for a new product, a partnership, or a company event.

You’ve Finished Writing a Press Release - Now What?

You have 2 options to distribute your press release:

  • You can distribute it
  • You can pay to have it distributed

Your strategy for content distribution is going to change depending on what your goals are and what your budget is.

Distribute On Your Own

  • Tweet the news
  • Write a LinkedIn post
  • Post your press release on your website
  • Send your press release to journalists and news outlets directly

This is an economical, but time consuming option. The advantage is that you can customize each message for the platform specific audience. And because your message is targeted, your engagement rate will be higher.

Pay for Distribution

Publishing on your own is not enough.  

Post your press to your website, social media feed, AND send it to a press release distribution service or a targeted publication. Each time you publish to one of these services, your release has the opportunity to be seen by anyone that subscribes to their feed. It is a publicity gain that is hard for your company to achieve on its own.

Here are some options to consider:

A distribution service will cost you anywhere from $300 to $2,000 for national distribution, so make sure you count the cost before you “spray and pray.”

Pro Tip: Avoid mass messages. Go niche and gear the release to a particular publication or small number of reporters.

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