When it comes to content, old school can be a good thing sometimes (namely when it comes to old school rap or Throwback Thursday on Instagram). But when it comes to your company’s PR strategy, there is no benefit to your company or brand from being old school.
Ten years ago people still relied on the morning papers for the news. These days, the vast majority of your company’s customers and prospects are scanning headlines on Twitter or seeing what’s trending on their Facebook feed.
People are now in control of where, when and how they consume information. As a result, public relations is no longer about breaking into a traditional news cycle. It’s about delivering relevant content when, where and how your prospects, influencers and customers consume it.
Sounds pretty hopeless, doesn’t it? Not correct. While relationship building still helps you get into popular publications, now we have those Opportunity to end the waiting game and generate our own excitement. By turning your PR strategy into an inbound strategy, you create opportunities that weren’t there before and create a space for your company to build meaningful mindshare with your target audiences.
One of the most important updates to your PR strategy is to think about ways you can connect with the audiences you care about – including, but not limited to, reporters. And that starts with press releases. In this post we will discuss:
What is a press release?
A regular cadence of meaningful news can help a company differentiate itself and build a mindshare with journalists over time. This is where the press release (or announcement) comes in.
A press release is an official announcement (written or recorded) that an organization makes to the news media and beyond. Whether we call it a “press release”, a “press release”, a “press release” or a “media release”, we are always talking about the same thing.
While the heading should contain action verbs, the first paragraph should answer the “who”, “what”, “why” and “where”. The press release should also contain understandable language and a quotation.
Most press releases are only one page long – two pages at the top. Ultimately, companies want to provide enough information so that news agencies have enough material to post their own stories about what the company is announcing in the press release.
While it may be tempting to write a press release that enhances the performance of your business or twists the facts to make a story sound more intriguing to the media, remember, press releases are publicly available so your customers and prospects can see them She. Rather than viewing a press release as just a ticket to coverage, consider it valuable marketing content as well.
While there is no clear formula for what a press release should contain, here are some types of occasions that you can use to establish a focus for your press release and what content will best get your news across:
Types of press releases
- Introduction of new products
- Mergers and acquisitions
- Product updates
- Great openings
- New partnerships
- Executive promotions / recruitment
Introduction of new products
The product launch type of press release is helpful for informing about the new solutions your business is bringing to consumers. This version highlights the product specifications, pricing, availability, and other details that may be of value to consumers.
Mergers and acquisitions
Organizational changes are noteworthy enough to warrant a press release, especially to inform current and future stakeholders about a company’s growth and development. To announce an acquisition or merger, include details of all organizations involved, information about the merger or acquisition, and offers from the leadership teams.
Similar to a new product launch, product updates and additions are also ripe for promotion. Explain what the change is, why it was made, and what benefits it will bring to the user.
Press releases are an important part of event marketing for receiving advertising from news agencies and other media sources. You should include what the event is about, who should be considering, when and where it will be held, prices and other necessary details.
Whether you’ve opened a new office, moved, or opened for the first time, share the details with an opening press release. Include the date and location of the opening, who is involved, how the opening will be celebrated, and the reason for the move (if applicable).
Similar to mergers and acquisitions, a press release announcing new partnerships is a mutually beneficial marketing tactic. To effectively do this type of publication, you need to write a summary of each company, why the partnership was formed, who will benefit from it, and other key details for current and future stakeholders.
Rebranding is difficult for any business and can occasionally lead to confusion and awkwardness. One way to make the transition smoother is to announce the rebranding with a press release that details the changes, the reason for the change, the dates the changes will take effect, and quotes from the executive team.
Executive promotions / recruitment
Executives often serve as the faces of the company and a press release serves as a prelude to that role. It can include biographical information to help establish its credibility along with a photo and other relevant details.
When it comes to business excellence, it’s okay to brag. Press releases about awards and achievements serve to cement your organization as an authority in your field. Such a press release will include information about the company and why they received the award, information about the award itself, and details of the ceremony (if applicable).
Example of a press release format
When you format a press release, you want to write it in a new, hassle-free way so that a journalist writing about it can think of it as an article on their news page.
Press release format
- Title and italic subheading to summarize the news
- News location and newspaper in the opening line
- Two to three paragraphs to add information
- Bullet facts or numbers
- Company description below
- Contact information and “For Immediate Publication” above
- A “###” at the end
As mentioned above, you want your format to include traditional press releases such as your contact information, the words “For Immediate Release,” a note about your location, and a brief bio about your company. If you have specific spots for these items, there is no need to mention them on your body copy so you can focus on discussing the breaking news.
You may also want to include “###” or some other identifier to indicate to the journalist that the publication has ended. In the past, this prevented busy journalists from waiting for more information or turning the page when it ran out of news. However, this tradition has been adopted and highly respected to this day.
If you’d like to format the copy of text and heading, click here or scroll down for writing tips.
In this example, Catbrella Inc., a fictional advertising agency that has just got its 10th Twitter follower after two years of paid social media efforts, announces its performance in a press release.
* Disclaimer: HubSpot is entirely responsible for the silliness of this bogus announcement.
How to write a press release
Writing a press release to get all the important company news out can help companies grow better, but getting it right is just as important. Here’s how to write a step-by-step press release like the one above.
Rule 1: make your headline compelling.
You have your announcement in mind and now is the time to put it into words to share with your community, industry, and followers. Just like writing the perfect blog post title, setting up your press release for success starts with your headline. You only need to work with one line, which can seem scary. However, think carefully about how to get your headline captive.
Use action verbs, clear, understandable language, and keep your headline simple and short – fortunes (and search engines) will reward the job. So, keep your title on one line to get people’s attention clearly to your topline message.
Most of all, make it interesting: remember that reporters get dozens, if not hundreds, of publications every day. So invest the time to write a compelling headline. It’s well worth the time and effort on your part.
Rule 2: Communicate the news value to the press.
In order for reporters, analysts, influencers or followers to be inclined to share your announcement, you need to let them know in advance why they should care.
The first paragraph of your version should deal with the who, what, why, where, and how of your new start, update, or new development. Reporters don’t have much time to sift through details and fluffy background information – they just need the facts to help them tell your story from someone else’s position of authority.
After this section, there should be no new important information that the reader may overlook. A great way to ensure this is to use the reverse pyramid formula when writing your press release.
Rule 3: Make a tempting offer.
Once you’ve set the scene, it’s time to bring your data to life with a quote that reporters can use as context for your announcement to paint a picture of how your news is affecting the specific industry Customer base and the landscape.
Ideally, the offers come from key stakeholders in your company, including your leadership team, project leaders, or those directly affected by your announcement. Quoting key figures and authorities underlines the importance of your development. The quote you choose should shape your narrative and highlight the gist of the announcement. Don’t solicit comments from everyone in your office or feel compelled to quote all 25 people involved in the acquisition – pick a critical speaker or two and focus the quotes on their unique perspective.
Rule 4: Provide valuable background information on the subject.
In this last paragraph, remember that the reader already has all of the key details and information they need to submit a story or get the word out.
It can be tempting to provide redundant facts and details about your business or the development of your announcement – we sometimes think a font is missing if it’s not lengthy and just shy of being a novella. A press release, however must be helpful and concise.
Offer details here that reinforce your narrative, such as creative or noteworthy ways your company developed this project or announcement. Or, if necessary, comment on the future implications of your announcement.
Another great way to add value to your press release is to use newsjacking. A process of associating your press release with something that is currently going on in order to make it more valuable to the journalist and reader.
Rule 5: Put the “who” and the “what” together in a boilerplate.
Twitter is full of reporters complaining about press releases or pitches that don’t clearly explain what the company is doing or what the announcement is actually about. So instead of just kidding, make your publication incredibly easy.
Describe what your company is doing in clear, simple English, add a link to your company’s homepage early on, and make your boilerplate concise and straightforward. When citing data, add a reference link for the data source and make sure that each name in the version has a title and company associated with it.
To be honest in this regard, ask a friend or colleague to read the press release out of context and ask if they can easily and readily explain why the announcement is important, what your company does, and why it cites the executives included will. If the answer to any of these questions is no, return to the drawing board.
The key to keeping your PR strategy in the new school is to forget about preconceived notions about public relations and instead focus on creating highly noteworthy content. Traditional press releases can still be very valuable if done well. Instead of dropping publications as a tactic, modernize them to make them more useful in your marketing.
Think about how you’ve used in-depth methodology to transform your marketing strategies to be more personalized, approachable, and relationship building. The same principles apply to your PR strategy: create content to create your own story, and use tactful reach to introduce reporters and analysts to your brand.
Examples of press releases
Many people think that press releases need to be full of buzzwords and branding terms. “Big Data”, anyone? Five Syllable Words You Need to Look Up on Thesaurus.com? Quotes from every executive on the planet going on for pages? We saw it all. Unfortunately reporters too – and they’re not fans.
Rather than filling your next publication with jargon, take a page from our book (okay, well, e-book), the Newsworthy Guide to Inbound Public Relations, and think of some creative approaches for your next announcement. Can you add new data? A remarkable graphic or a video? A shareable SlideShare? In this case, having a creative point of view can help transport your content and increase the likelihood of social sharing.
To get you on the right track, check out some examples of creative press releases below, the type of news everyone is covering, and what makes the release unique:
ŠKODA at the World Rally Championship
Type of press release: Event
Škoda, a Czech Republic-based automaker, recently showed off its sponsored racing team in two major locations: at the 2017 World Rally Championship and in an elegant, image-based press release covering the event.
The press release shown above has no problem aligning the appearance of the Škoda brand with the press release itself – a crucial aspect of a company’s press content. The release begins with a large functional picture of one of its vehicles in the same bright green that covers the company’s website. The press release also starts with three helpful bullet points that summarize the news for readers and ends the release with some actions with captions to give reporters more context for the event.
ScribbleLive acquires new company
Type of press release: Acquisition
Yes, a video press release! That news from ScribbleLive gave reporters almost everything they would need to republish this story, all in one thorough two-minute video about the company’s recent acquisition.
ScribbleLive opens the above video press release with the company logo and a clear heading with the news. This allowed the company’s CEO to go straight into his comment on the acquisition and gave reporters ample quotable material on the state of the industry and why this merger was so important to them.
In the press release, the video is segmented the same way as it would be in a written press release, with the CEO’s comment broken down by the question he answers. This makes it easier for viewers to jump through the video and find the information that interests them most.
On YouTube, reporters in a press release in this format can embed the news content directly on their website, making it much easier to get the news across from ScribbleLive.
Peapods new headquarters
Type of press release: New office opening
When opening a new headquarters it can be difficult to figure out what to say. People just want to take a look at the new dig! In the above press release from Peapod, an online grocery company, the company puts photos of its new office at the top and instantly shows readers what makes this news so important to Peapod.
The publication even highlights a quote from the Chicago Mayor just below the headline suggesting to reporters writing about Peapod’s new headquarters that this is the remark Peapod most wants to share with readers.
Read the text on the boiler plate at the bottom of the press release above. “Over [company]“Text can fit into the actual message body too easily, making the piece seem longer than it really is. By isolating that copy in a dark gray box, Peapod offers a smoother reading experience and ensures the story itself isn’t lost for an intimidatingly long time Text wall.
New product announcements from HubSpot
Type of press release: New product introduction
Often times, when you bring products or services to market, the information is best expressed in writing. However, if you are just writing about the price and features of your new offering, it can be difficult for others to refer to and cover later. At HubSpot, we know the challenge well.
The graphic above helped us to add details to our own product announcement – written by our amazing communications manager Ellie Botelho – that needed some visual aid. With the help of a combination of colors and shapes, we were able to use this graphic to show important relationships between products as well as their respective prices and the time of their availability. (Interested in one of our products? Attention! ^)
We’ve also created this comprehensive, easy-to-understand press release template with a promotional plan and considerations for your next announcement. We use the same guidelines when writing and formatting our posts here at HubSpot, and we’ve created a man-made sample version to show what content is going where and why.
Tips for publishing press releases
Writing a press release is really only half the battle. Once you’ve finished producing, it’s time to focus on sales.
Of course, we are all familiar with the traditional distribution levers we can pull, including posting the press release on our website / blog, as well as distributing the press release to our followers / subscribers via social media and email. To make sure a press release gets the widest possible coverage, here are some tips that you can follow.
1. Contact specific journalists.
Instead of delivering a press release to every journalist, you can find an email address, focus on a few journalists who are experienced with your industry (and hopefully your company), and send them personalized messages. Connect the dots. Show why what you wrote is related to what you write.
2. Don’t be afraid to go offline.
Most journalists have mountains of emails (and press releases) to search through. Try sending your share in the mail or some other offline channel to help you stand out.
3. Send the press release to top journalists the day before.
Give journalists some time to write a story around your press release by sending it – under embargo – to them the day before its official release. (For your information, “under embargo” only means that you are only allowed to pass on the information in the press release at the time you specified.)
4. To avoid competition, do not publish your publication every hour on the hour.
If you are posting your press release on a distribution service such as PR Newswire or Business Wire, avoid posting it every hour on the hour (e.g., 1:00 PM, 3:00 PM, or 5:00 PM). The reason? Most companies plan to have their publications published every hour on the hour. So if your release is also being released every hour on the hour, it’s more likely that it will be lost in the shuffle. Instead, try to choose a clearer time (e.g. 1:12 PM or 3:18 PM or 5:22 PM).
5. Share your media coverage.
If everything goes according to plan and your press release is picked up by the media, your assignment is not yet complete. To keep the buzz going, you can start a “second wave” of spreading by sharing the specific stories news outlets write based on your press release.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in November 2019 and has been updated for completeness.