press release

In an age where news comes from news feeds rather than news papers, the question for content marketers is: Do you still need a press release? With ‘new’ media, is a press release really necessary?

Before I discuss if a press release is needed, it’s important to fully understand what a press release is.

What is a Press Release?

A press release is an official statement sent to the news media. Typically, a public relations specialist creates and sends out the document.

Press Release vs News Release

What’s the difference between a news release and a press release?

The term press release has been around much longer than news release. Some people think a press release is sent to traditional media such as press, news rooms, newspapers, etc, and news releases go to other forms of news media, like bloggers. Other people think the terms can be used interchangeably.

I agree with both, kind of. The term news release has evolved from press release to encompass all forms of media, but it’s okay to use the terms interchangeably. It doesn’t matter what you call it, it matters what you do with it.

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Components of a Press Release:

  • Headline – The headline is the most important part of a press release. It’s the first thing people read and therefore it should stand out. It should get the reader’s attention and make them want to read more.
  • Dateline – List the city the press release is originating from in the first part of the first paragraph (e.g. Bismarck, ND – ) and then start the first paragraph immediately after. Include the city and abbreviated state (or Territory) unless the city can stand alone (like New York or Tokyo). Use Associated Press Style to determine if the city can stand alone and the state’s proper abbreviation. Purdue University Online Writing Lab is a great resource to use for basic AP style tips.
  • Date – It’s important to list the date the press release was sent out. The date can be placed in the dateline next to the city (e.g. May 29, Bismarck, ND –). I’ve also seen the date located in the upper right hand corner. As long as it is in the first part of the press release, it doesn’t really matter where it’s located.
  • Introduction – The introduction is the first paragraph of the press release, so it’s placed right after the dateline. It should answer the basic who, what, when, where and why questions. The intro should be short, sweet and interesting.
  • Body – The body of the press release should expand on the introduction and give more details. The body copy should have a quote after each paragraph. For example, if this is a press release for a fundraiser for a Children’s Hospital, have a couple quotes from the fundraising/events coordinator.
  • Boilerplate – The boilerplate is the last paragraph in a press release, it is a short summary of the company, organization or individual. This is the about section of the press release. The boilerplate should be short and clear, and easy to understand. For example, if you’re writing a press release about a company, the boilerplate could include information on what the company does, when it was founded, how many people it employs, its location(s) and a link to a website.
  • Close – After the boilerplate comes the close. This is so people know when the press release is over. It can be “-30-” or “###”. Different places around the world use different things for their close. I used to use “-30-“, but now I find myself using “###”. It really makes no difference.
  • Contain contact information – List the contact information for the person(s) who can answer the media’s questions. If the media decides to pick up your story, your contact person needs to be available to answer their questions, set up interviews/ photo opportunities, provide photos and anything else the media may need in order to create the story. Most media sources have deadlines and there is nothing more frustrating than not being able to get ahold of someone when you’re in a time crunch.
  • Immediate Release or Embargoed – Near the beginning of the press release, there should be the word “For Immediate Release” or “Embargoed.” Most press releases are labeled For Immediate Release. Embargoed means the media should wait to release the information until the desired date. This is used to give the media a heads up. The bad part of using embargoed and the reason they are not used often is that there is an obligation on the media’s part to hold the information. Legally, they can release the information whenever they would like.
paper press release

This is the proper format for a paper press release.

That is the format I use when sending a hard copy of a press release.

Sometimes it is best to email your press release. When you email your press release, the subject line of the email should be the same as your headline. The format I use for an email press release is below.

email press release

This is the proper format for an email press release.

Those are the elements that need to be in a press release. However, there are a few more things to keep in mind when writing a press release. There are four things people who aren’t public relations specialists tend to leave out of a press release.

A Press Release Must:

  • Be news – Is the story you’re promoting news? If it’s not news, no one will pick it up. Don’t waste the journalist’s time. Keeping up good relationships with the media is vital. If you send them a press release that contains no news, the next one they get from you will go right into the trash.
  • Be written like a journalist – Your press release needs to be written in news format. You want the journalist reading your press release to be able to see the story in their media. Give the information, there is no need for extra stuff like “fluff”. In my experience, some media will even run a press release verbatim. So, it’s important for press releases to be well written.
  • Be informative – Make sure your press release answers as many questions as possible. Give all of the information you can. A great way to see if your press release is informative enough is to have a friend–someone who doesn’t know what the story about–read it. Then ask if they have any questions. This has helped me clear up basic questions the media may have. Since I wrote it, I would fill the blanks in my head. But, when someone else read it, they caught the parts I needed to expand on.
  • Have quotes – I know I mentioned this when I discussed the body copy, but if you’ve never written a press release before, it can be easy to forget. It makes the press release more interesting and news-like. How many times have you read an article in the newspaper that has no quotes? For example: If your press release is announcing a new employee, be sure to have a quote from the new employee, or maybe even a quote from the boss. If it adds to the story, have quotes from multiple people. Just make sure the people are important/relevant to the story.

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Now that you understand what a press release is, the question remains: do you still need one?

Some people say no. They believe with social media, they can get their information out to more people and a more targeted audience. While social media is a great tool to use when releasing information, the press will be able to get your information out to a wider audience.

Sending out a Press Release

When it comes to sending out a press release, send it out on social media, but be sure to send it to other forms of media as well. The type of media you send your press release to depends on what the purpose of your release is. I’ve listed some common places to send a press release below.

Where to Send a Press Release

  • Daily/Weekly Newspapers – You can send your press release to daily newspapers (local or national). It’s good to know when the deadlines for the paper are. If you are submitting a press release after their deadline, they may put it on their website.
  • Magazines – As with newspapers, be aware of their deadlines, especially if your press release is time sensitive.
  • Radio Stations – Radio stations are a great place to send a press release, especially if you need to get information out quickly to a mass audience. It’s easy for a DJ to mention something on air.
  • TV Stations – Once again, TV stations have deadlines. Try to get your press release to them so they have time to determine if they would like to pick up your story.
  • Bloggers – Be familiar with the blog you are sending the press release too and be sure your story relates to their blog. Bloggers have a more personalized approach to discussing news, so you should have a more personalized approach when sending your press release. Send an email to the blogger and mention a post or two and what you liked about them. Then say you have a story that would fit in with their blog if they are interested and give them a brief summary of the story. If they respond yes, then send them the press release.
  • Distribution Service – A distribution service is able to increase your visibility and attract new customers. They are able to send your press release to a variety of channels. Some distribution services are free, some are not. Mashable has a great article that lists 20+ free press release distribution sites.

Final Answer:

Yes, you still need a press release. They are a great way to get information out to all forms of media.

How have you used a press release? Do you feel like it helped get the word out?