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How to write a press release?

How to write a press release?

Press reports are written in a structure known as the inverted pyramid. They are brief but newsworthy texts published with the aim of enhancing the image or reputation of a person or entity, rather than for sales and marketing purposes. The press release format is straightforward. Press releases typically contain information, supported by data, about events and/or strategies related to a particular subject. News releases are sent out through a distribution service with the aim of attracting media coverage or raising awareness about a news story. Writing a press release is relatively easy, especially if one adheres to the following press release template.

How should a press release be composed?

The first paragraph of a press release should provide answers to all the ‘5W1H’ questions (if applicable): who, what, when, where, why and how. The primary message should be stated in the introductory paragraph so that if a journalist uses only the first paragraph, this message will be adequately conveyed.

How to write a press release. Here are the do’s for a proper press release format
  • The key message should be clearly stated in the headline of the press release so as to capture the attention of journalists. The subject can be further elaborated upon in later paragraphs.

  • Journalists seeking more information can move on to the second and third paragraphs, where the subject is explained in considerably more detail. These paragraphs may also include quotes from a company official or other relevant source.

  • The final paragraph (usually the fourth or fifth) should contain background information about the subject.

  • If the subject of the press release has provided any detailed information (dates, venues, times, etc.), this can be provided at the end of the press release in a separate section or box.

  • Given the importance today of search engine optimization, it is also essential to use relevant keywords in the text to ensure the press release is prominently displayed in search-engine results.

Structure of a press release

The press release structure is straight forward. It typically consists of four parts: a headline, a lead paragraph, second and third paragraphs, and a final paragraph containing background information.

For a press release to stand out among the countless emails that a journalist or editor receives every day, the key message should be communicated through a compelling headline, and reinforced in a lead paragraph. A good lead paragraph will also answer the ‘5W1H’ questions, when applicable. If an editor chooses only to publish the lead paragraph, the text should contain all primary information.

  • The second and third paragraphs should include more detailed information, such as the purpose of an event, the number of expected participants, etc. If journalists or editors want more information, they should be able to find it in these two paragraphs.

  • If a press release is sent out prior to an event with a view to attracting participants and members of the press, an invitation message should be communicated in the third paragraph. The date, time and venue of the event, along with additional contact information, should be placed in a small, separate box at the end of the press release.

  • The fourth paragraph is generally reserved for background information, such as a company’s history, similar events held in the past, or other details related to the subject of the press release.

Spelling / grammar rules for press release structures

When writing a press release, grammar and spelling mistakes should be assiduously avoided. Mistakes mean extra work for editors, thus decreasing the likelihood of a press release being published. Headlines, meanwhile, should be both explanatory and compelling. They should not be too long; rather, they should convey the message clearly and concisely. The first letter of each word in a headline should be capitalized, and headlines should never be presented in all caps.

  • Sub-headlines should avoid referring to product or services, or any particular organizations. Sub-headlines that highlight statistics or figures are often appreciated by journalists, who tend to prefer data-based information.

  • Commonly used fonts should be employed, while italics and other typefaces should be avoided. Fonts should not be so large that they look ridiculous.

  • The use of sub-headlines in press releases facilitates reading. They can also be used as references, especially when data is cited. 

  • The name of the product, organization or entity that is being promoted should be used as little as possible. Remember: a press release is not an advertisement. No publisher wants to be seen as promoting a product or product launch directly.

  • Standard rules of capitalization apply to press releases. Job titles should begin with a capital letter, and extra attention should be paid to how they are written. Generic titles, such as marketing director, human resources manager, or sales manager, should be written in lower-case.

  • Abbreviations may be used when needed, especially for corporate names. For instance, writing ‘THY’ instead of ‘Turkish Airlines’ makes it easier for the reader. The abbreviation can be introduced (between parentheses) the first time you mention the company name, i.e., ‘Turkish Airlines (THY).’ Thereafter, the abbreviation can be used. 

  • Numbers one through ten should be written out (‘one in ten people’). For numbers greater than ten, numerals should be used (‘11 products were launched’). Dates, percentages, prices, and statistical data should all be expressed using numerals (‘7% of the market’).

  • It is important to properly date a press release. The release date should be stated in the upper right-hand corner of the bulletin, which allows it to be easily archived. In the text, all dates should be stated clearly. Ambiguous terms, such as ‘in a few days,’ should be avoided.

  • In terms of length, press releases should neither be too long or too short. If it’s too short, it may not be deemed newsworthy and thus not published. If it’s too long, journalists and editors may not have sufficient time to read it. And if they do read and publish it, they may end up removing important content due to space considerations.

  • To be more precise in regard to length, the ideal number of words for a press release is between 350 and 500, with the sub-headline never exceeding 90 words.

  • In the final paragraph of a press release, details like phone numbers, an email address and other contact information (including social media accounts) can be included, which journalists can use if they have any questions.

Language of a press release

Not only writing but also distributing press releases via a news release service like B2Press can help raise a business’s profile. That being said, the key factor to consider when preparing a press release is newsworthiness. The best way to determine whether a subject is newsworthy before you send a press release is by using the ‘5W1H’ test. Any text that can answer those six questions–what, where, why, when, who and how–will most likely be deemed newsworthy. We strongly recommend that you review the press release samples as well. This way you can better understand how to configure the 5W1H.

  • The headline should be short but compelling, with a sub-headline summarizing the primary message. The sub-headline and first paragraph should deliver the key points of the press release while avoiding too much detail (this can be done in later paragraphs).

  • A press release should be written in journalistic style, not in everyday language. Words of praise and generalizations should be avoided. Press releases are expected to follow the journalistic principle of objectivity.

  • A press release should be easy to understand, regardless of the literacy level of one’s target audience. With this in mind, avoid unnecessarily long sentences, complex terminology, and foreign words or phrases.

  • Particular attention should be paid to style and accuracy. Mistakes can lead to a press release being mistaken for ad copy, diminishing its chances of being published.

Why are figures and statistics valuable in a press release?

Newsworthiness is the main feature sought in press releases. The most remarkable factor among the newsworthiness criteria is the figures and statistical data. A press release reinforced with figures and ratios will always attract the attention of journalists and have widespread media coverage.

Newsworthiness is the main delicacy in press releases that allow individuals or institutions to establish a sustainable relationship network with the press. Although the newsworthiness varies according to the type of publication, the time of publication, publication policies and cultural characteristics of the public, it depends on criteria such as currency, curiosity, impact, public interest, extraordinariness, fame and negativity on a universal scale. However, data-driven texts are always more newsworthy. In fact, the use of figures and statistics suggests that the subject of the text is based on evidence. 

A press release reinforced with figures and ratios is considered by journalists as a significant and interesting text, especially by meeting the currency, impact and curiosity criteria. On the other hand, it would be a mistake to believe that every text containing figures is newsworthy. What matters is to use the figures and statistics correctly and in a manner that makes sense.

Points to consider while using figures and statistics

1- Double-check the source of the data 

The figures and statistics in press releases must be based on reliable sources. Otherwise, risky situations that may damage image and reputation may arise. These sources include a company’s data on its field of activity, a research report published by the research companies on the subject, or data shared by the statistical institutions. Regardless of the source used, it should be referenced in the news text.

2 - Make the journalist envisage 

Although the figures and statistics are newsworthy due to being based on concrete outputs, they remain incapable of making sense by themselves. For example, the statement “Number of immigrants reaches 272 million” contains numerical information, but it may not be sufficient to make the journalist envisage the actual magnitude. Instead, the statement “Number of immigrants exceeded 3.5% of the world population” both supports the data and makes it easier to be visualized. 

3 - Make it striking

Even if the data to be included in a press release presents a valuable output, it will not be effective unless it is expressed in a way that draws the attention of journalists. For example; if company A having an export figure of USD 50 million in 2018 increases this figure to USD 100 million in 2019, it would make the data more striking and catchier if it is expressed as “Company A doubled its exports in 2019” or “Exports of Company A increased by 100% in a year” instead of announcing it with a statement such as “Exports of Company A are worth USD 100 million in 2019”.

4 - Include quotations 

The figures and statistics to be included in a news text are also crucial for determining the problems regarding the subject and giving an idea about the solutions. At this point, it is necessary not only to inform the journalist of the data but also to explain what this data means and evaluate the current state. This provides an advantage in terms of the image and reputation of the brand spokespeople that will be mentioned in the press release. If the agenda of the press includes a similar issue, journalists may request opinions from brand spokespersons who have previously made evaluations in this field. 

5- Don't go beyond your area of expertise 

Evaluation of numerical data on a subject that is not adequately mastered increases the possibility of misinterpreting the output. This may cause misleading the press and target audience, resulting in loss of reputation. It is essential for individuals or institutions to deal with the figures and statistics related to their respective areas of expertise, both for the association of their names with their respective areas of expertise and elimination of the disinformation risk. 

6- Don't make changes on the figures 

The numerical data contained in a press release should not be changed but used as specified in the respective sources. For example, the fractional data should not be rounded but should be expressed more understandably. A statement such as “The city's green area rate reached 4.7%” may be replaced by the statement “The green area rate of the city is almost 5%”. On the other hand, "The city’s green area rate reached 5%" is an example of misuse.

What are the don’ts for “how to write a press release”?

First of all, press releases should not be addressed to the consumer, used to promote something or include advertising content. Furthermore, expressions such as the best, the most, etc. should not be preferred if possible. But if it is necessary, the claim should be verified.

Ambiguity should be avoided, as should jargon, slang or slogan-like terms. Itemizing should also be refrained. Headline should be appealing but it is better to leave it to the journalist or editor to come up with a creative, compelling headline of their own.

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