It’s one of the most debated questions in public relations: are press releases still relevant?
The short answer is ‘yes’.
We use press releases for our client work at 418 Communications, and we find them to be useful for our media contacts – as well as for our clients.
A press release is an excellent way to communicate information with the media effectively and efficiently. You can have all the information a journalist would need about your announcement in one place, with your news positioned exactly how you want it to be positioned. Should a reporter be interested in covering your announcement, this makes it very easy for them to do so.
Additionally, a press release can have multiple uses. As well as sharing it with the media, you can post it on your website, share it with investors, and link to it on social media. When you have major news to announce, a release is a multi-purpose tool that helps you communicate clearly with each of your audiences.
That’s why you should continue to use press releases - and here’s the ‘how’ for writing one:
1. Write your headline first.
Your headline should be brief, attention-grabbing, and make a basic statement about what you’re announcing.
If, for example, you’re announcing the findings of a new study on the effectiveness of virtual learning, your headline might be: “New Study Explores Effectiveness of Virtual Learning”.
2. Add more context with a subheading:
You don’t have to include a subheading, but it’s a good way to expand on your headline by offering additional details and context. We almost always use one.
Continuing with the example above, a subheading might be: “Study by [Name of Organization] Finds 2 in 5 Students Engaged in Virtual Learning are Falling Behind Grade-Level”.
This subheading lets the reader know who commissioned the study being announced, as well as one of the key findings. This additional information can help grab a reader’s interest.
3. Share essential details in your introduction.
Your introductory paragraph is where you should lay out the most essential details of your announcement: the who, what, where (if applicable), and when (if applicable). Save the ‘why’ for the subsequent paragraphs.
The paragraph should begin with a date line, including the location of the organization making the announcement, as well as the date the press release was issued.
Again, continuing with our example above, your intro paragraph might read something like:
LEXINGTON, KY – November 12, 2020 – A new study announced today by [Name of Organization] highlights the challenges associated with virtual learning. The study, which was conducted in October at 176 schools around the U.S., found that 2 in 5 students currently engaged in virtual learning are falling below their grade-level in four core subjects: reading, math, geography, and history.
4. Explain the ‘why’ of your announcement.
Your next paragraph or two should support your introduction, offering key insights about why you have this news to announce.
For our example above, you might share information about why your organization conducted the study, and about the broader picture the findings paint of the pros and cons of virtual learning. Instead of sticking purely to the facts of your announcement, you can elaborate on the reasons for and implications of your news.
5. Include a quote by a company executive.
After your opening paragraphs, insert a quote by a relevant company executive.
The quote should be easy to understand, professional, and can be used to convey a positive, encouraging, or hopeful sentiment about your announcement.
6. Include ancillary information towards the end of the release.
The final paragraphs of your release are where you can include additional context, background, and / or non-essential information. These paragraphs can help a broader picture about your announcement, your organization, and anything else related to or relevant for your news.
7. Conclude your release with boilerplate language.
In the context of a press release, a ‘boilerplate’ is a brief paragraph (or two) that provides basic background information about your organization. This is standard language, used on all your formal announcements.
An example might be:
[Name of Organization] is an educational nonprofit based in Lexington, KY. The organization, founded in 1903 by famed humanitarian [Name], strives to improve learning for students of all ages by increasing access to educational materials, educating parents on at-home, after-school learning opportunities, and providing valuable resources to educators.
More information about [Name of Organization] can be found at www.[NameOfOrganization].com.