Writing Press Releases
A press release is a document that informs the press about an event. A software company might put out a press release that we've got a cool new feature. This is usually done in hope that a media outlet will pick it up and run with it.
To be honest, I’m not a huge fan of press releases for features or version numbers, but do like doing them to announce an investment, adding a prominent board member, or adding additional rounds of funding. And specifically a new round of investments is a great time to make sure local media outlets receive those. Software updates are rarely worth a press release, but launching the occasional large scale initiative may be worth one.
As with most things we write that we want people to read, the way to grab attention is with a great title. When working with press releases, we call the title a headline. And as with most headlines, we want one that grabs attention. Let’s say we’re based in Los Angeles and we want to go after the emerging home automation industry using the HomePod as a wedge. First, we build a service offering. Then, we come up with a great headline that pretty much sums things up. Some ideas might include:
Local tech firm introduces comprehensive home automation
Local Shop Introduces New Home Automation Services
A New Era Of Home Automation Centered Around Apple
Local Firm Brings Home Automation To Businesses
The above headlines are fairly different from one another. But there are some lessons to learn here. In the above examples, most are kept short and easily digestible. Your name could easily (and probably should) replace the “Local Shop” or “Local Tech Firm” in the headlines. There should be one catchy or trendy word, but not so many as to be unapproachable, and importantly, headlines should typically be 8 words or less.
Next, let’s talk about the header. This is at the top of the page, and contains some pretty basic information. On the left side, we need two lines. The first would read when to release the information. The reason this is necessary is that some content is under embargo, which means we want someone to write about it but not actually release what they’ve written until the embargo is lifted.
The second line would include the date we’re sending out the release. On the right side of the header is the contact information. This should include a name, phone number, and email address, each on its own line.
Dateline and Lead
The first paragraph of the press release contains the dateline and lead. This is one of the most important parts of the release and any reader will likely stop reading immediately if you don’t keep their attention, so don’t bury the lead here.
Start with the city followed by a dash (known as the dateline) and then include a sentence that wraps up the release in a nice pretty bow (known as the lead). An example of an opening paragraph might read like:
LOS ANGELES – Charles Edge of Megaawesomeconsultancy announces suite of new services that brings cutting edge home automation technology to small businesses, leveraging the Apple platform.
Throughout the body, we’re going to cover what’s often referred to as the inverted pyramid. Start with the most newsworthy aspects of the release: the Who, What, When, and Where. Then go to the important details, and wrap up general and background information, which we’ll cover in the next section.
An example of the body might include two or three paragraphs that lay out the necessary details, such as the following example:
Edge vows to bring Home Automation technology to every aspect of small businesses, at a rate that more than pays for itself in energy savings. George Technicianopolis has been named head of the Automation business unit.
“We are bringing out of the box solutions to Main Street so businesses can control HVAC, lights, and monitor energy consumption, said Technicianopolis. “And not only does it allow companies to save on energy bills, but it makes everyone’s lives easier.”
Technicianopolis will be at Huge Tech Conference on April 1st. Here, organizations and the media can see a model home, and control every aspect with standard voice controls.
Notice in the above exerpt, we included a quote or two from the business owner or someone at the organization. An additional quote could come from an analyst or a statistic from a study as well. There’s also a call to action to join the company at a showcase where more quotes can be obtained and where someone from the media could get hands-on experience with the technologies being mentioned.
We don’t need to provide a summary to a press release. But we can include a paragraph of background information that we reuse in each press release we put out. Rather than give an example of this, let's cover some considerations:
How long the company has been in business.
How many customers the company has.
Anything newsworthy or legitimizing about the company.
Any quotes from industry analysts or influencers in the industry about the company.
For smaller companies, information about the principals of the company.
An example of the general information might read something like the following:
Founded in 1602, Megaawesomeconsultancy brings modern technologies to small and medium sized businesses. The company focuses on Apple technologies and carries the largest inventory of Apple hardware in the world, as it has since its founding, centuries before the founding of Apple itself. Megaawesomeconsultancy has 894 employees, with offices in Venice Beach, Calif.
“We will save the environment, one HomePod installation at a time,” said Charles Edge.
For more information on Megaawesomeconsultancy, visit http://www.krypted.com.
Finally, and this is worth repeating: a press release isn’t a book. Keep a press release to a single page and always have it proofed to make sure it fits with AP Style Guides (a link to the latest version of that is included at the end of this chapter) before you submit it.
Once the press release is done, it can be submitted via prweb.com, Newswire or directly to various contacts you may have in the press.