Whether you’re planning a career in communications, politics, nonprofit management, or business, knowing how to write a good press release is a skill that should not be overlooked. I’ve written a lot of press releases in my life for various purposes, including to promote books, to share breaking news, to advertise a 5K benefit walk, to offer my opinion on something, and more. While these may seem to disparate things, there were some common, overarching themes to each of these press releases that can be learned to teach you how to write a press release too! Here are the top five.
Have a good headline
News agencies get a ton of press releases across their desk every day. It is important to make yours stand out. That starts with a good headline. Of course, depending on your purpose, your headlines might vastly differ, but try to think about what would make you pick up the press release. Why say “POLITICIAN COMING TO TOWN TUESDAY” when you could say “CONTROVERSIAL SENATOR SET TO DEBATE MAYOR ON TUESDAY.” Give enticing information that makes them want to read more and makes them want to actually share your event/breaking news/opinion/et cetera. For a 5K event, I would write “3000 WALK TO FIGHT HIV IN NEW HAVEN,” which lets the reader know that it is going to be a big event, something notable, and our purpose for walking.
The first paragraph shouldn’t beat around the bush
While the headline should draw the audience in, it will be the first paragraph of your press release that really sells. Be sure to include all relevant information in this first paragraph, including the date and time of your event, should that be your focus, any important participants (politicians, dignitaries, et cetera) and anything else you think is important to convey. If your press release is meant to convey information about a breaking news event, make sure you share that plainly in the opening paragraph. Any supplementary information can be written in the following paragraphs. The opening paragraph should get right to the point about what is happening and how you think your audience should feel about it.
Ideal length: one page
While you may have a lot of information you want to convey, stick to one page or less for a successful press release. Concision is key. Like a resume, no one wants to read more than one page to learn about what is happening. If you’re worried about this, play with different styles including normal paragraph prose, the use of bulleted lists, and graphics. A good graphic, particularly of a person or book cover, can really catch the key. Don’t worry about including a photo if you don’t have one in mind. Pictures are not a necessity by any means, but keeping it to one page is.
Include relevant contact information and dates
A good press release is completely useless if you don’t include relevant dates for events or contact information to learn more from you or the coordinators. Your press release could be the most compelling thing in the world, but if you forget to give your reader a way to contact you or attend your event, you’ve failed. I always include my contact information at the top and bottom of a press release and bold the important dates included in the body of the piece.