Understanding the purpose and content of a press release will help you distinguish the differences between a press release and paid advertising. Your knowledge will help you write an effective press release, which increases the odds that the media will use your information to your benefit.
A press release provides information to the media with the objective of reaching the public via news coverage. A company, individual or nonprofit can often gain valuable press coverage with no outlay of money other than the costs of writing and disseminating the release. A well-crafted press release presents facts in a positive light and can provide valuable name recognition, credibility or ancillary sales benefits; however, it is not paid advertising and cannot be designed to blatantly promote a product or service.
A press release can be disseminated to the media in various ways. For fast-breaking news, email is the quickest and easiest means to reach the media. Press releases can also be faxed and mailed. Mail is often used for more extensive press kits that include photographs, illustrations and additional explanatory materials such as brochures that journalists can use to compile a more extensive story.
Be sure to provide your own contact information at the top of the press release. Also note when the press release can be used. Most are “For Immediate Release,” but if it’s to be used after a specific date, note that date.
A press release must be based on newsworthy facts. Write about a corporate milestone, new products and services, special events, and personnel hires and promotions. Include the basics for any news story: who, what, where, when and why.
Editors often use your press release exactly as you write it. However, they will often cut the press release from the bottom up in order to fit in their available space, so ensure that the most important facts appear in the headline and first paragraph.
Write the press release simply, factually and as briefly as possible. Avoid hyperbole, bragging, subjective claims and superlative adjectives. However, just because you can’t brag doesn’t mean you shouldn’t write strong, benefit-oriented copy. Avoid passive tense. Active tense is stronger. Double-check your spelling, grammar and sentence structure. Make sure that your writing presents your topic in the most favorable light.
At the end of the press release, briefly summarize your company, products, services or other relevant background.
Rosanne Knorr is an award-winning writer, editor and author since 1980. She has written feature articles for countless publications and has authored 13 books including "The Grown-Up's Guide to Running Away from Home." She ghostwrites books on financial and lifestyle topics. She has taught creative writing and speaks on writing and travel topics. Knorr holds a Bachelor of Arts in English.