Press releases are underrated.
One of the best ways to generate – and maintain – the buzz for your brand or company over time is to generate press releases.
They are designed to be official company announcements that journalists and stakeholders rely on to get the scoop on what’s new with the company.
In this exhaustive guide, we take a look at the anatomy of a press release, different formats, and we even include a couple of templates that you can download and start using today.
It’s time you start using press releases to start driving some solid inbound traffic.
Back in the day, if a company wanted to disseminate information about critical decisions that affected their shareholders, they launched a press release for the media.
But not much has changed today. It remains to be one of the most effective ways to inform people about what’s going on in a company.
If a company launches a new product, gets into trouble, or decides to do something “monumental” that affects their stakeholders, they should give a press release.
Depending on how big the news is, it can be picked up by journalists if it is deemed newsworthy.
The thing is, it’s not just limited to large corporations.
In today’s internet age, press releases can be quickly disseminated to more journalists – especially those who cover your industry. They can also be broadcasted through the company’s mediums, such as their website and social media.
In effect, they’re not just built to inform people, or for journalists to write articles about, they can also boost the engagement that a company has with its customers and other stakeholders.
The best thing about press releases?
Press releases don’t rely on paid distribution networks; if you properly pitch an idea to a journalist, they might just pick it up and give you the exposure you need.
Another thing to love?
If it’s an article online, you might even get a free backlink from the news network or the platform the journalist is writing from.
Let’s get one thing clear.
There are different types of press release formats, and they are dependent on what kind of news you’re reporting about.
However, there is a general way to write a press release. Here are its essential components:
Imagine an upside-down pyramid.
That’s how most news stories are written.
The inverted pyramid model or bottom line up front (BLUF) works by placing the most critical pieces of information at the very top and then placing supporting information much lower.
It is useful because it allows readers to quickly go through a story and still pick up the main point regardless if they finish it or not. People say it also helps editors cut out irrelevant pieces of information from the bottom up.
Using this format, you put other general information and the background story much further down. This helps create the structure for the copy.
How does this help a marketer?
Your reader does not have to finish reading your press release, but they’ll still find out about your press release.
The headline is the most crucial part of the press release because it is the first thing that the journalist and the reader sees.
The first person that you have to appeal to is the journalist. They decide if your press release is worth publishing in the first place.
Remember, journalists are bogged down by tons of emails every day, and by crafting an attractive title, you can stand out in their inbox.
You might have a great product or announcement, but if the title does not live up to the part, it won’t be read.
A press release still follows a formal structure, so the title has to encompass the entire news brief into one short sentence. You can get a little creative with it as long as it fulfills its purpose of appealing to the reader immediately.
Short to the point titles work best since you can read them faster. You don’t want to bore a reader with the length of your title. The decision to read through a press release is dependent on the construction of the title.
Another important note is this.
If you’re looking to create press releases that are SEO optimized, try to incorporate your keyword into the title. However, don’t get too caught up with the SEO; your priority is still attracting people to the title.
The most critical paragraph in the press release is the lead paragraph because it aims to sum up essential parts of the story into one section.
The first part of your lead paragraph is the city, state, and date of the press release. It gives the reader the setting of the news. This is always written out in bold and followed by a dash.
The paragraph then attempts to answer the following questions:
There is room for some creativity in this part of the press release, but it is highly advised that you stick to the facts.
The succeeding supporting paragraphs can give the reader more insight into why the news is so important and what the company is engaged in. Don’t get caught up in the small details here.
This paragraph has to be concise enough to answer all of these questions and provide a foundation to elaborate on in the next paragraphs that follow.
There are two ways to structure the second paragraph, it’s either you give the reader some more information about the event, or you provide a quote.
If you ask us, go with the quote.
Quotes are a great way to add depth to a press release because it provides an unfiltered opinion of someone who’s involved in what’s being reported.
Press releases are written out from a single perspective, and a quote allows the reader to look at the news from the lens of someone else.
The quote has to serve a purpose.
Who do you quote?
People who are going to be affected by the announcement should be quoted, but one can also harness quotes to emphasize other parts of the press release.
For example, if you’ve launched a groundbreaking event, then it makes sense to quote the head honcho so that people realize how important it is.
If it’s a new product, then quoting a satisfied customer will make sense to do.
If there is the absolute need to get valuable information through before the quote, then you can place the quote in the next paragraph. However, a citation is seen as a breather from the long-form text. So use it as a standard separator.
There is no requirement for a press release to have a quote, but imagine how bland that would be.
This is the reason why most releases opt to have them.
Following the inverted pyramid model, we talked about earlier, and you can now add various types of supporting information into the next paragraphs. Ideally, this should be anywhere between three to five paragraphs.
For instance, say you’ve launched a new product. Your third paragraph could talk more about the features of the product and how it’s better than the old one, and the succeeding sections could be about what your company’s research and development division or previous line-ups.
Some press releases opt to use bullet points towards the end to emphasize company facts and make them memorable for people. These company facts can be statistics and other useful tidbits of information.
The information still has to be pertinent to the announcement, but you can also promote your brand subtly.
However, avoid turning it into an advertorial. That’s not what press releases are for.
The boilerplate is what journalists look at to find about your company, but it is powerful because of one fundamental reason.
You can use it to talk about your company creatively.
Here’s what you need to make an excellent boilerplate.
The boilerplate is where you can focus on telling your reader about the company. This means you can include an entire paragraph about its achievements or talk about its vision for the future.
It serves as a good avenue for you to start getting creative about the way that you describe your company to the rest of the world.
Keep the boilerplate as straightforward as possible. You want to be able to summarize everything that has been said with your boilerplate.
These three hashtags indicate that there is nothing to print after the notation. Some people end their press release with -end- and that is also acceptable. Whatever comes after the notation does not have to be printed, so this is where notes could come in.
A standard press release is anywhere between 400 to 600 words long. However, this is not always the case, especially for detailed company announcements or new product launches.
The rule is: shorter is better.
Keeping your press release short and sticking only to pertinent details is a good idea because it allows a reader to fully digest the information quickly. Longer pieces can make people hesitant.
Traditionally, press releases didn’t really contain pictures or other media.
However, it has always been dependent on several factors. If the news story has to be supported by media, then photos are an excellent way to go.
If you ask us, just include photos at any time that you can. There is no guarantee that the journalist will publish the press release with the photographs, but in the off chance that they decide to, you’ll get an opportunity to liven up your press release.
Nobody likes plain text.
It always helps to liven up a piece of writing with a couple of photographs to add more value to the writing.
As the adage goes, “a picture is worth a thousand words.”
Some companies have tried video press releases, and these are common for larger organizations.
However, there are plenty of ways that a small startup can launch a press release.
The same formula applies here.
It has to be short, with the information concise and straightforward.
Skip out on the unnecessary marketing and make sure that there’s a quick interview from a key person – this is your alternative to the quote of a standard press release.
Try to get a couple of journalists to circulate the video, but a good way to disseminate the information would be to run it through social media channels and the company website.
Another thing that you could do is to make an accompanying text press release.
Make sure that you send both to the journalist.
A lot of press release services that syndicate these releases will allow you to enter a quick video about your company.
Take advantage of this option.
People like videos because they are engaging.
One of the best uses of press releases?
The product press release stands in as a pseudo-advertorial for your new product or service. However, since it’s a professional document, you have to stick to the rules.
A product press release is a reflection of the intrinsic value of the product. Can it be attractive to your prospective buyers, even without the fancy packaging and marketing copy?
If your answer is yes, it’s time to focus on the value of the product in providing solutions.
These types of press releases can be loaded with a lot of things. You can talk about the product, then end with either the vision, the company story, or even promote other products that they also produce.
There’s a lot of leeway for you to put out a feature-packed press release.
The headline should contain the company name and the product name or utility. You can even include how the organization is helping solve a problem.
Here’s a quick example:
XYZ Growth Hacker, Inc. Launches Tool to Give You 100 Million Views on YouTube
Instead of giving out the product name, it went straight to explaining what the product does for the people who will be using it.
For product press releases, you can use two quotes. These can either be from the head honcho over at R&D or any key stakeholder that was responsible for the development of the product.
The quote can be a reiteration of the product features – but it has to be phrased in a different way. It can also be a quote that details how this new offering will change the lives of stakeholders.
As we’ve mentioned earlier, a quote adds another dimension to the writing, so take advantage of that. Other product details can be included in the other parts of the press release.
You can place the first quote in the third paragraph if you want to jump right into the product specifications right after the lead paragraph.
The body of a product press release has to paint a picture of what the product is and how it was developed into what it is today. This is one area where you can get really creative.
There are a few ways to approach this.
Make sure you have the product details, and a couple of technical specifications which are important for your technical readers. It provides a picture of how your product stands out from the rest of the competition.
Depending on where you're going to release this, you can make add all the supporting information that you want. Larger companies like Apple go on and on about their products because they send out these details to journalists around the world.
You have that option, but it's important to keep it short and sweet.
Towards the end, you can talk about the goal of the product launch and the vision of the company with the use of its new product. It has to paint a picture of where the company is headed.
There is also the development angle where you can talk about how the company came up with a unique product or service offering.
A lot of people use the development angle because it’s an opportunity to talk about corporate culture.
Alternatively, you can talk about what the company aims to achieve in the future. It shows how the leadership of the company wants to do.
The difference between an event press release and a standard press release is the purpose. An event press release also serves as an invitation for people to join your event and cause.
In effect, it has to be structured as a call-to-action.
There are different types of events: fundraisers, networking events, special themed holiday gatherings, etc. and they all follow the same format.
However, product and service launch events will require elements from the product launch format.
It’s technically an invitation, so all of the details of the event have to present in the lead paragraph. This allows anyone to quickly glance at the press release and know how to get to the event.
The headline for an event press release usually contains the company name, event name, and when the event will happen. It helps if the event’s name is indicative of the event’s purpose.
Example: COMPANY NAME is holding its EVENT NAME for the support of CAUSE
It’s short, simple, and to the point. Easy enough for a journalist to pick out even on a busy day.
As mentioned earlier, the lead paragraph should contain the major details of the event. However, as you write the body of the event press release, there are a couple of things to keep in mind.
If you’re supporting a cause, you need to be able to write about the cause to rally people to support it alongside your company. In this light, it also helps to tell people what caused the company to support a particular organization.
If it’s a charitable event, you can even create engagement for people who won’t be able to make it to the event. You can add the bank details of the charity or a point person within that organization.
You need to stress the importance of the event in the succeeding paragraphs. An example would be writing how the event has helped others in the past in the paragraph after the quote.
Follow up with why the event is important to the company.
Organizations – especially ones of a larger scale – need to show their stakeholders that they are stable.
One of the most important times that you could issue a press release is during the filling of an important position in an organization.
Whether it be a promotion that occurs internally or a specialist be taken in to fill the role, it as to be made known to everyone.
It tells everyone that they are in good hands.
Think about it this way.
It is an opportunity for the organization to showcase the talents of the newly assigned point person.
Check out how Starbucks announced three new appointments to the BOD.
The press release is also a chance to thank the previous holder of the position for their service.
If it has been a controversial time in the company, they can use this medium to formally give an explanation as to why this change has been made. It allows for unnecessary rumors to die down in difficult times.
The standard headline for a new position press release could mention the name of the person, the position, the reason, and the company name.
If the person is renowned in the industry, plus points for the organization.
There are only two acceptable quotes in this scenario.
The first is from the person who is being promoted into the key position. It can detail the excitement that the person has for the new role and their vision or the future.
However, another way to go about this is to get the leader of the organization to say a couple of words about the appointment.
You could use a combination of both quotes to drive the point and show the world the direction that the company wants to start taking.
The lead paragraph follows the same standard formula for answering the pertinent 5Ws. However, after the quote, you could summarize the skillset of the person that is being appointed.
Think of this as a condensed version of the person’s resume – like a secondary lead paragraph, but this time focusing on the person’s experience and background.
The paragraph after this can detail where the company is headed to next and why it decided to go towards this direction when it comes to filling up the position.
It is a chance for the company to tell the reader about their plans for the future.
It is the reassurance that they are doing this because they care.
The last paragraph before the boilerplate can talk about the person who was formally in charge of the position and why they had to leave.
Mergers and acquisitions are significant company events that have to be addressed properly.
They affect two sets of stakeholders- internal and external, and press releases related to these types of events follow a certain rule.
These press releases must be able to excite the two different sets of stakeholders and show stability and growth for both the companies.
They also serve as a good springboard to tell people about new products that could come up due to an upcoming merger or acquisition.
This part of the press release should have the name of both the companies and what they are trying to achieve.
However, don’t just tell people you’re merging. Tell them what it’s going to create.
“Super Growth Hackers Acquires LinkedIn Ninjas to Create The Most Confusing Startup Ever” sounds better than:
“Super Growth Hackers Buys LinkedIn Ninjas In Two Days”
Just because it’s a merger and acquisition, which is a formal business event, does not mean that you can’t be a little creative with the title.
If you choose to do the latter, then that’s absolutely fine, as long as a lot of people know what one of the company does for a living.
The lead paragraph contains quick details of the acquisition or merger, and what it aims to do. It should give the reader the reasons why it’s being done in the first place.
Another useful thing to keep in mind in the case of mergers is that you need to include the new company name or the name of the company that will be retained.
Mergers and acquisitions use two quotes with each quote representing each of the two parties involved or representing two different viewpoints with the same end goal in mind.
In the case of an acquisition, the company doing the acquiring gets the first quote.
The second quote usually appears after a paragraph after the first quote. It could be the second party, an industry.
After explaining the merger or the acquisition in the lead paragraph, you can go straight into the first quote.
The majority of the third paragraph after the quote can be dedicated to elaborating on the details of the MA. It could be specific details on what will change and what the company plans to do in the future.
This is where a company can paint the vision that it has for itself and its stakeholders.
After another quote – from either the other party or another perspective, you can talk about more technical details. How much will it cost, will it create more jobs, and other statistics that you want to include.
You can end the paragraph with additional notes on how the new company will function and other standard contact details.
Boilerplate (for Major Acquisitions)
These types of press releases require that you retool your normal boilerplate into one that is reflective of the newly acquired assets.
It’s time that you put in your new main address and the primary methods of contacting the company – especially in the case of acquisitions.
We briefly touched on the use of photos, and this is one press release that demands that you include pictures.
A change of address is a large change in how a company operates. It tells people that a company is ready to take on new challenges, and it is in a position to make a difference.
If an organization is moving into bigger headquarters, it signifies growth, and it tells stakeholders about the stability of the company.
The headline for this type of press release has the usual elements of the company name and the new address.
However, there are ways for you to get creative with this step.
Check out this McDonald's press release.
Instead of telling people you’re moving to a specific address, you can describe specific facilities or features.
For example, Growth Hacking Inc. Moves to 10-floor Business Incubator in Manhattan.
Simple changes like these add more depth to the headline. It stands out because people try to imagine the new location from the headline itself.
The quotes for a change of address press release have to come from the leader of the organization because it is reflective of a move forward into the future.
It is only apt that the person setting the vision talks about what the next steps for the company are.
This can be the organization’s president or someone who was instrumental in the growth of the company.
The lead paragraph is standard, so it briefly touches on the move. You can give out the most important details of the new location and why the organization decided to move in the first place.
After the quote from someone pivotal in setting the vision, you can talk about the facilities in the new location and how it can better serve the customers.
These press releases still prioritize your patrons. They’re made to inform them about new changes, so you need to explain how it will make their lives better.
The next paragraph can talk about the history of the organization and why this move is a big deal to the organization. It is a chance to tell people about the company.
If you take a look at the McDonald's example earlier, you'll find that they follow the same format:
A general announcement could be anything from a store closure for the holidays, major renovations, or a routine change in production that may or may not affect stakeholders.
These are your standard, run-of-the-mill press releases that you can easily compose using the format we’ve mentioned above.
However, this is no excuse for you not to be creative about it.
There are still ways to rally people in support of your organization.
Find a different angle to your announcement.
Say it’s for a date that’s going to be moved. Instead of telling them that a sale will be postponed because of the bad weather, you can try this approach:
No To Wet Boots: Superboots Inc. Moves Their Boot Sales to Second Week of July Due to Inclement Weather
Do you see how four words changed the mood of the announcement and made it seem lighter?
There’s nothing wrong with standard press releases, but you don’t always have to keep things standard.
General announcement press releases keep the body pretty standard, but depending on the news being reported, and you can still spice it up.
News that doesn’t cause any detriment can still be given a positive spin. It all depends on how the entirety of the press release is phrased.
However, avoid changing out the format too much when it’s announcements that demand formality.
There is no shame in telling everyone about an organization’s awards!
An ISO certification, a major achievement, and milestones should be published because it enhances the company’s reputation, and it increases the trust that people have with it.
Recognition generates buzz for an organization, and some prospects are just looking for that extra push to sign up with a company.
Talk about your awards. They are proof and recognition of your company’s efforts to take itself to the next level.
The standard headline of a “company name plus award name” won’t cut it anymore – unless it’s an award that’s highly recognized by the business community.
Instead of mentioning the award name, mention how the award was achieved.
For example, instead of a headline that says: National Hacking Awardee: Growth Hacker Inc.
You can opt for: Growth Hacker Inc. Tops the United States List of the Most Ruthless Growth Hackers.
(Disclaimer: We do not condone ruthless growth hacking)
As you can see from the second example, it shows people what the award is rather than just plainly telling them.
A standard quote from a company official talking about how grateful they are for the recognition, how they achieved it, and what their plans are for the future is crucial. It makes the company sound human.
After the quote, you can talk about the award itself and why it matters in the industry and in the line of work that your organization does. The history of the award and previous recipients can also be mentioned here.
The succeeding paragraphs can talk about how the company achieved the award and the hard work that they put in. You can also expound on what the company official said in their quote and talk about plans.
This is time for you to rally stakeholders and to align them with the organization’s vision.
A crisis is a painful time.
But, it’s also an opportunity to unite.
A proper word from the company is the best thing that you can do for your company. It’s the best way to calm shareholders, strengthen your resolve, and to tell your customers that you will persevere.
Remember the Volkswagen emissions scandal?
There are different ways to write a crisis management press release, but the simple rule is not to be defensive, but to be short, honest, and sensitive.
For a lot of your stakeholders, this is definitive news of your efforts in fixing the situation.
Keep it as simple as you can. State the company name and acknowledge the crisis. You don’t have to be creative here, but rather formal. It helps keep things simple and straightforward.
Journalists will pick up the press release since it’ll automatically be newsworthy due to the crisis. You don’t have to pull out all the stops.
The two types of quotes that you can use here are either from the organization’s head or from a person that is directly linked to the problem being fixed. Two quotes can also be used.
For example, if it’s a legal battle, then the company lawyer could be a quote in the second paragraph (first quote) and the CEO in the fourth paragraph (second quote).
These quotes should serve two purposes: to reassure stakeholders that there is a resolution in place and to clarify the steps being taken.
The lead paragraph should address the problem head-on.
People like seeing solutions, so the paragraph right after the quote should elaborate on what is being done to address the problem. After the second quote – or if you opt not to sue a second quote – you should talk about the history of the crisis.
Talk about its effects, but keep it short enough, to be honest, and acknowledge what has occurred without inciting panic.
Focus on the steps being taken to mitigate.
A major product update should be treated as a new product release following the instructions that we’ve laid out in “Press Release Format 1: Product”.
You need to create buzz for the old product by talking about how the major update has now been revamped to be able to cater to the needs of people.
In effect, this is a press release that is centered on informing customers that you are listening to their suggestions and that you are a company that cares about their needs.
But that’s not all.
It is also a call to prospects to finally try out the product.
In this regard, it has to be marketed in the press release in the same manner as the launch of a new product.
The headline has to be catchy.
You want to create buzz for a product that’s already been released.
The trick here is to make it look like that the product has been completely retooled to meet with the demands of the people.
The Ability to Read Minds: The Growth Cannon App Gets a Major Update
Your clientele and prospects need to be taken aback and feel like they’re dealing with something entirely new.
The primary quote needs to come from the product development arm of the organization.
If you want to add a secondary quote, it can be from a current customer or someone who’s tried to a prototype of the product update.
The body can be written out in the same standard as of a new product with one major contributing factor.
It has to show why the company decided to make the update.
The last paragraphs can talk about how the organization has been listening to the suggestions of their customers during the testing period and how that has contributed to their product development.
Additionally, they can talk about what else they have planned to roll out to expand their product line.
Don’t forget to talk about the vision.
It helps set the direction of the company and the image of the organization to its customers.
There are times where companies have to make immediate announcements.
An example would be a product recall or a call to customers to do something immediately.
These types of press releases are different from a crisis press release because they reflect an immediate call to action. Crisis press releases constitute an update but do not necessarily mean that a customer has to do something.
Keep it as short as possible with the primary instruction embedded in the headline.
For example: Growth Inc. Urges Customers Not to Use LinkedIn Password Hacking App
(Disclaimer: We do not condone password hacking.)
Breaking news is always an instruction for stakeholders to do something. Get that message out there as fast as possible.
A company spokesperson should provide an explanation for the breaking news. It should be able to reassure stakeholders that all steps are being taken to fix the situation.
Shorter is better in this particular scenario.
The lead paragraph is critical here. Make sure it reflects all the necessary information that you need to give out.
Just like a crisis press release, make sure you explain the company’s position as honestly as possible.
If it’s a call to action type of press release, make sure you explain alternative options in the third paragraph after the quote.
Check out how Target updated its customers along with information on financial performance.
The paragraphs after that should focus on giving out some background on the issue being tackled and what the company aims to do about it moving forward.
The history of the company can be used to reassure the public that it is responsible, and it puts its stakeholders first.
Want to save time and dive into more examples?
Check out these downloadable templates that you can easily switch out with your company’s details so that you can start crafting your press releases today.
There is no excuse not to use a press release.
They are one of the most influential pieces of content that you can utilize to maximize your exposure.
From crisis management, new products to charitable events, there is a format for every occasion. These news articles can help unite your stakeholders and serve as a form of advertising for your company.
They can unite your stakeholders, reassure them, promote a product, and of course, create enough momentum for an indirect inbound marketing campaign.
They are important.
And, again, it’s free exposure.
A press release tells stakeholders that you are a company that’s alive. It is a reminder that your organization is continually changing to keep up with their needs and that it doesn’t mind informing people of its progress.
Growth Marketer |
Forbes Top 12 Innovative Founders |
CEO at BAMF