How to Write a Press Release Journalists will actually Use
How can you cut through the noise and get noticed when content trades receive hundreds of press releases daily, and only publish a handful? PR specialist MJ Sorenson reveals how.
First, a quick look at the difference between editorial vs advertising, or “earned” vs. “paid” media.
Earned media builds trust, gives validation to your news, but there's no guarantee journalists will cover your story. You must persuade them to do it, and they control the final message. Paid media gives you complete control of the message, enabling you to build exposure when editorial is not happening.
A healthy communications plan has a mix of both earned and paid.. But here we focus on earned, i.e. editorial, and the tried and trusted press release.
By issuing a release you can:
· establish your program idea and claim the concept in press
· attract investors seeking your type of project
· promote and attract top executives
· gain credibility that your company is successful and more.
But only if it gets picked up! To make it happen, here’s a format to follow based on my experience.
Logo / Headline / Sub-headline
Put your company logo at the top, your business is part of your continuing story.
Inform the press of your preferred timing for the release with text under the logo: “Immediate release” or “Embargoed for Release on (date/time)”. Timing matters.
Then write a strong, compelling headline (65-80 characters) using concise, easy-to-understand language (especially if you want your story picked up internationally). The heading can be exciting, but must convey the actual news you are promoting. Teasers don't work.
Add a sub-headline that emphasises and clarifies your headline news (@120 characters) directly below the headline.
The ideal length of the release is 1 page (who reads page 2??) made up of 5-6 paragraphs, each paragraph no more than 3-4 sentences – about 500 words in total. Make sure each word counts, avoid hyperbole.
The first paragraph should start with city/state/country (location of your company) and the date. Zero straight in on the newsworthiness angle of the story. Don’t build up to it, just say it up front, this may be the last paragraph they actually read (!). It is OK to repeat the headline and sub-headline here, then simply expand on your news.
The body of the press release, 4-5 sentences, should tell the story by covering the journalism basics: what, who, when, where, why and how. Sometimes why now can be a good angle too if your concept is topical, trending or time-sensitive.
Declare the importance of your news with facts (i.e. rather than “the program had the largest audience”, give factual details like “the show was #1 in its time slot, reaching over 1.2 million”). And state the reference, to give credibility.
Break down the numbers only if relevant, e.g. to reveal a significant demographic, but be careful of manipulated hype: you may have “doubled the slot”, but on a digital channel at 2 a.m. on a Sunday, and from 50 to 100 viewers, it isn’t news.
it is always advisable to have one or two principals quoted in the release - broadcaster, production CEO, star - to stress important points. Keep any quotes to about 3 sentences max and always mention your company and/or show name in the quotes. Journalists will not alter your quote, although they may cut it shorter or omit it altogether.
Always provide at least one image, whether a show still or an executive headshot. Images should be clean (no text or program title) at high-resolution, a jpg, tff, png. The journalist will caption.
send a personal note to the journalist, just a sentence or two at the top of the email.
add hyperlinks to company names and/or references where possible.
do not attach the release as a word or pdf file (and risk it going to spam), copy and paste into the body of the email.
add a boilerplate - an About Us section to describe the company at the end.
add socials (Twitter, FB, Insta) links here, and contact info: phone, email and location of contact.
Whether you write and issue your own announcements, or hire on a PR agency (such as MJ Global Communications), I look forward to reading all about it!
MJ Sorenson is a consultant with The Format People. She established MJ Global Communications LLC in 2011 to advise the international TV industry on press and marketing strategy. Her client portfolio spans the globe, including China, (CCTV/CITVC) Los Angeles (GRB Studios) Mongolia (Mongol TV) Dubai (SynProNize) and more.