A press release is a written statement issued to media outlets with information on a particular matter relating to your business. The goal is to have media outlets take the information provided in your press release and turn it into a news story for their publication or broadcast. Good press releases share the information in a succinct and compelling manner and are distributed to media outlets that reach your business’s target demographic.
“When launching into a new market, it is crucial for us to get local media coverage,” says Gene Caballero, cofounder of GreenPal, a platform for sourcing and hiring lawn care professionals. “Without a mention in the local newspaper or on a local television news station, it takes us six months longer to gain traction.”
If you’ve had trouble generating coverage for your business in the past, don’t worry! Press release writing is an acquired skill. We’ve created this step-by-step guide to explain when it is appropriate to send out a press release, the press release format you should follow, and how to distribute a release for maximum impact. Writing your small business’s press releases is one of the few things you can do at no charge whatsoever and still see a very big return on investment.
When Should You Send a Press Release?
The goal of a press release is to have a media outlet share the information you provided with their readers, viewers, or listeners. In order for that to happen, the information in the press release has to be newsworthy. This means it’s about something that has happened or is going to happen, and it is of interest to people outside of your business. Hiring an intern or buying a new coffee machine for the office probably isn’t worthy of a press release, but here are some topics that are:
Debuting a New Product or Service
Sending a press release when your business has a new offering serves the dual purpose of generating media buzz and informing your customers about the new product or service.
Making a Key Hire
When you hire someone for an important position, a press release can serve as a sort of advertisement to people in your industry, letting them know the caliber of talent your business is attracting.
Hosting an Event
Award or Recognition
Change to Business
If there is some kind of significant change to your business, such as a new store location, major holiday sale, or merger or acquisition, it is worth writing a press release about. Even negative changes, such as a key employee resigning, can sometimes be worthy of a press release, if for nothing else than to control the narrative around the story.
Partnerships with other organizations in your community, such as another business, charity organization, or the local government, are effective material for press releases because they appeal to a wider audience.
A Simple Press Release Format in 7 Parts
A press release format consists of seven parts: The release date and your contact information, the headline, the sub-headline, the opening paragraph, the body paragraphs, quotes, and the boilerplate copy. We’ll go through the process for writing each part. Rafe Gomez, co-owner of public relations firm VC Inc. Marketing, recommends sticking to the “three Cs” when writing your press release:
“Clarity, conciseness, and convincingness are essential components in your quest to capture the attention of an editor or journalist. Deviating from the three Cs will create confusion, annoyance, and disinterest on the part of the person you’re seeking to entice, and even if your news has merit, you’ll lose the opportunity to move the process forward.”
1. Release Date and Contact Information
On the top line in the upper left margin of the document, you should include the phrasing “FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE” if it is okay for the media to report this news immediately, or “HOLD FOR RELEASE UNTIL [DATE]” if you want to place an embargo on this information for a period of time.
Below that you should include your business contact information, including phone number and email, so that journalists can follow up with further questions. If you’d prefer to use a template, PressReleaseTemplates.net offers 67 different press release templates that you can download, customize, and print for free. 
The headline goes below the release date and contact information, and should be centered in the middle of the page. The purpose of the headline is to clearly communicate the news regarding your business in a compelling way.
Ideal headlines are between 30-100 characters, beginning with the name of your business. The headline is the most important part of the press release. If it does not grab the reader’s attention, they will probably not read further. Keeping the three Cs in mind, you should state the most important information as clearly as possible.
Here are some examples of good press release headlines:
- “BURGER KING® Delivers New Nationwide Partnership With Postmates”
- “Krispy Krunchy® Chicken Helps Feed Over 10,000 Floridians in Need”
- “Amperity Honored by Goldman Sachs for Entrepreneurship”
While optional, the subheadline is a great opportunity to expand on information provided in the headline and create more engagement. This section should also be 30-100 characters long and provide additional background in the form of names, facts, figures, or answer anything that the headline doesn’t make clear. Here are the subheadings for the aforementioned example headlines:
- “Enjoy Free Burger King Delivery Only on Postmates This Week”
- “Krispy Krunchy® Chicken Visited Hard Hit Towns in Florida This Weekend”
- “CEO Kabir Shahani Among 100 Most Intriguing Entrepreneurs at 2018 Builders + Innovators Summit”
4. Opening Paragraph
Press releases follow what is known in journalism parlance as the inverted pyramid writing formula. This might sound complicated but it simply means the most important information needs to come first. Your opening paragraph should answer the who, what, where, when, and why of your story, as clearly as possible. It should also be no longer than 50 words. Further details can be saved for the body paragraphs.
Finally, the opening paragraph needs to be preceded by a dateline, which is a line at the beginning that shows the date and place of the writing. The viability of your press release depends on this opening statement. The reader must be compelled to learn more.
“Humans, by nature, are self-serving. In today’s age of information overload, if you want to grab a reader’s attention, you have to tell them why they should care and do it in the opening paragraph.”
5. Body Paragraphs
The body paragraphs contain the rest of the information about your topic. Aim for three to five paragraphs and no more than 400 words, or enough so that the press release can fit on a single page. Again, focus on the three Cs, providing all relevant details without being too jargon-y or self-promotional. While you write, try to anticipate questions readers might have about your topic, and answer them in the body.
It can be useful to highlight several aspects or angles of your news story so that journalists have some variety when deciding how they want to cover it. Finally, edit your copy and proofread it.