Thirteen tips for writing the perfect press release

Despite the revolutions that have happened in PR, writing a great press release remains a vital skill. Although it may seem to be a straightforward endeavour, it is incredible how many press releases fail to follow basic rules (like having clear contact details included!). Here are 13 tips that will make sure your release gets noticed for all the right reasons. 

Consider NOT doing it!

Sam Pudwell, head of content at PR agency Red Lorry Yellow Lorry: “It is much harder to achieve cut through with press releases than it was a few years ago. Our advice to clients is always to consider whether the news actually warrants a press release in the first place. Would a blog or a media alert be more effective?” 

Make it relevant 

Sam Pudwell: “If a press release is the way forward, the usual rules apply: use direct and active language, lead with the business benefits and cut out the corporate jargon.  

“Most importantly, make it relevant to local markets. It might sound obvious, but we’ve seen countless brands send out the same press release across multiple regions and then wonder why it doesn’t get pick-up. Take the time to localise the release, such as with regional stats or case studies, and you’ll not only turn heads, but build your relationship with local media.” 

Have a short, punchy headline 

James Wright, account director at PR agency Alfred: “The subject headline is arguably one of the most important aspects of writing a press release. Journalists receive hundreds, if not thousands of emails each day, so this needs to catch their attention. Think carefully about your story and why people will care about it. My main piece of advice, make it exciting but get to the point.” 

Write like a journalist 

Cheryl Morris, managing director of agency Creative Word PR: "Having worked as a journalist I think you can always spot a press release that has been sent with a journalist in mind rather than trying to sell a business. 

"Making sure that your press release shouts out newsworthy rather than advertorial is crucial.” 

Tailor it to the publication 

Cheryl Morris: "If you don't spell out how the release is relevant to that publication then it can easily get missed. Generic press releases will rarely hit the mark and it is always best to write your press release as if you are writing for the publication you are sending it to. 

"Tweak and send slightly different versions to different media if their audience, style, area or interests are different. 

"There is nothing like receiving a press release which is pretty much ready to go - it makes your decision so much easier." 

Tailor it to the audience 

Brittany Noppe, PR and social media manager at integrated agency ilk: “It is also important to think about your audience or different audience segments and what the most important pieces of the story would be to them. Always tailor your press release to these different audiences because a press release written for a consumer audience won’t necessarily work for a trade audience.”

Back up statements with data 

Brittany Noppe: “Wherever possible use figures or data to strengthen your headline and story. Journalists appreciate when there is evidence behind a statement as it’s more convincing and can be an easier sell.”

Useful formulae 

The rule of five 

Steve Earl, partner at communications consultancy BOLDT: “Write down no more than five things that you need to communicate:  

“Prioritise them one to five. For points three and four, you will create a short quote from a) the party whose press release it is and then b) someone who can validate that point. 

“In total you should therefore have seven paragraphs maximum - write those, then add the headline of no more than 10 words 

“Not a perfect formula, and no such thing as a perfect press release, but it will get you to a well-shaped story fastest and you can then refine from there.” 

 The A, B, C strategy 

Evie Porter, head of projects at agency GingerComms: “There are transferable elements that any successful press release should contain, whatever type of media it is being sent to.

“I call them my A,B,C rules:

“Assess whether this is actually a story. If you started reading it to your mate down the pub, would they genuinely be interested? “Be brave and push back to the client. This is not an advertorial, the brand name cannot be in every line, product info to be included only if necessary, no logos please. “Cut the crap. Write in straight, no nonsense English - ditch the PR jargon, unnecessary waffle and get to the point. Journalists are writers by trade - it’s their job to jazz it up, if they see fit.”

Write for humans 

Tim Gibbon, founder of communications consultancy Elemental: “The press release needs to be written for humans though there may be a temptation to create an SEO-driven press release, you are  more likely to dilute brands this way.” 

Prepare your spokespeople

Tim Gibbon: “The media might want to speak to your spokesperson. They may also wish to ask questions that are not spoon-fed via a press release and secure comment not in the press release. Moreover, they may want to speak to a spokesperson on topics that may not directly relate to the press release, but that said, spokespeople should be able to handle these questions. If spokespeople can’t move beyond the press release script, you either need to prepare them to do so, or find other representatives.”

Sign off properly  

Tim Gibbon: “Add direct and unique URLs to where the recipient can learn more and read more.

“Sign off and add contact details. Ensure all the aforementioned is signed off, checked and tripled checked. There’s nothing worse than trying to issue a correction and/or update. Include a landline or especially a mobile number. Sometimes a call is faster and warranted.”

Consider time zones

Heather Delaney, managing director of PR agency Gallium Ventures: “One tip that I have is due to us working with companies and media globally and is always the thing forgotten by most PRs: Consider time zones. Now I don't mean San Francisco is eight hours behind London, although that is important. What I mean is not every country changes their clocks twice a year, and taking the US and UK as an example they do both adjust the clock for summer and winter, but not at the same time. There are a few weeks a year where that time zone shift will be +/- one hour. 

“Nothing quite as frustrating as setting an embargo only to realise the day before it lifts that the US changed clocks early and you have given American press the wrong time.“

We hope that the 13 top tips above prove lucky for you…