How to Write a Press Release: The Definitive Guide (2020)
In this post you’re going to learn exactly how to write a press release in 2020.
This guide also includes lots of:
- Real life examples
- Press release templates
- Advanced promotional strategies
- Lots more
So if you want to get GREAT results from press releases, you’ll love this new guide.
Let’s dive right in.
Chapter 1:Press Release Fundamentals
What Is a Press Release?
A press release (also known as a “media release” or “news release”) is a piece of content designed to inform members of the media about an organization’s recent developments
Put another way:
A press release is something that a company writes to let people know about new stuff.
Why Send Out a Press Release In 2020?
Why should you even bother writing a press release?
Here are a few key benefits that you can get from writing and distributing press releases:
- Get covered on media sites and blogs
- Drive traffic to your website
- Have your company show up in Google News
- Improve your Google rankings
- Boost your company’s trust and credibility
To be clear:
A press release isn’t going to magically get your company featured on the cover of Forbes or Fast Company.
But when done right, a release can be a powerful tool to spread the word about cool stuff that your company is doing.
Press Release Template
Here’s the template I recommend using for your press release:
And now it’s time for me to break this template down into a simple, step-by-step process.
Starting with chapter 2…
Chapter 2:Do Something Newsworthy
Your first step is to come up with something that bloggers and journalists will WANT to cover.
In other words:
And in this chapter, I’ll show how to do just that.
The Truth About “Newsworthy” Stuff
Doing something “newsworthy” isn’t hard as it might sound.
Your “news” can be as simple as putting on a local event. Or redesigning your website. Or hiring a new CMO.
In fact, I recently sent out this press release to announce a new blog post.
So yeah, your news doesn’t have to be earth-shattering to work.
As long as you’re doing something new, you’re good to go.
With that, here are 4 newsworthy topics that you can use for your next press release.
New Industry Study
It’s no secret that industry studies are HUGE right now.
In fact, more and more public relations firms are using industry studies and surveys to get media coverage.
That’s probably because 39% of journalists state that they want to be pitched content that contains “exclusive research”.
Here’s an example of what I’m talking about:
I’ve used this approach myself. And I can tell you from first-hand experience that industry studies are a PERFECT press release topic.
First off, a study brings something new to the table… something new that’s backed up with real life data.
Second, unlike most boring press releases, your study is about something interesting that journalists will want to cover.
For example, a few months ago I teamed up with BuzzSumo for this industry study.
And to help get the word out, I wrote and distributed this press release.
Not only did that release send targeted (journalist and blogger) traffic to our study…
…but it got us featured on business news sites (like The Drum).
This release also helped my site’s SEO. Even though the original release used a nofollow link, a handful of blogs picked up my release. And those blogs added a nice dofollow link back to my site.
If you’re launching a new product or service, a press release can help spread the word.
If you want other sites to pick up your release, your product needs to be interesting.
For example, here’s a press release about a new blockchain trading platform.
This platform probably isn’t going to be the next Coinbase. But it’s interesting enough to share in a press release.
Is your company putting on an event, like a charity pancake breakfast or block party?
If so, you’ve got fodder for a press release.
For example, this press release bills its event as “The Biggest Cat-Centric Culture Event In The World.”
Note how their release isn’t just: “We’re putting on this event”. It has a compelling hook that makes people want to share it.
(More on that in the next step)
Website Redesign or Rebrand
Unless you’re Google or Facebook, a new website isn’t going to light the world on fire.
If you’re hungry for a press release topic, a redesign can fit the bill.
Plus, you can always turn your redesign into something interesting with a strong hook.
For example, Shots.net positioned their redesign as a relaunch of their core offering (now without a paywall).
If they led with something like: “Shots Announces New Website Design”, no one would have cared.
But they added a hook to their rebrand (paywall-free content) that journalists were already interested in.
Speaking of hooks…
Chapter 3:Develop Your Hook
Now that you identified something newsworthy, it’s time to take that news and refine it.
Specifically, you want to turn that piece of news into a strong hook.
(Your “hook”, sometimes also called your “angle” is how you present your news)
And when you use a hook that people care about, you’ve got yourself a SOLID hook.
Let’s get right into it.
A Real Life Example of a Hook
Let’s take another look at the industry study we talked about earlier.
This industry study was really geared towards SEO and content marketing professionals.
For example, the study writeup used terms like “backlink acquisition”.
That’s a term that only marketing pros would understand.
And I knew that if we used this same approach with our press release, it wouldn’t get picked up.
So for the release, we used a hook with broad appeal.
Specifically, our hook was we helped figure out why people share content online.
In other words:
We took a dry topic that only appealed to pro marketers… and turned it into a hook that would appeal to more people.
And it worked!
Like I mentioned earlier, our story got picked up by a handful of sites:
(Many of which first saw our study from our press release).
And I’m confident that our press release wouldn’t have worked if we went with a hook like: “Long-form content is ideal for backlink acquisition”.
With that, here are 3 powerful hooks you can use.
Tie-In With Hot News
In many ways, a hot and trending topic is the ultimate hook.
After all: people are already talking about a topic.
And your news adds fuel to the fire.
For example, this Ohio healthcare group tied their event into the hot blockchain trend.
This turned what could have been a boring release (“Ohio Healthcare IT Day Poised to Take Center Stage”) into something super interesting.
Here’s the truth:
Most local blogs and news sites are STARVING for stuff to cover.
And unlike mega brands like TechCrunch, you don’t need to twist anyone’s arm to get local news coverage.
The best part?
Your company doesn’t even have to be a local brick and mortar store for this to work.
For example, a few months ago I came across this list of “America’s Filthiest Cities”.
What’s interesting is that, even though this company is based in Illinois, they got coverage from local news stations in Baltimore, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, and more.
That’s because this release had a local angle for each of those cities.
Is your company doing something that’s the opposite of conventional wisdom?
If so, you’re sitting on a press release goldmine.
For example, take a look at this release about self-translating wine labels.
Note that Third Aurora isn’t doing anything super controversial. Saying “we’re developing wine labels that translate themselves” isn’t the type of non-traditional take that’s going to bridges with customers.
It’s something different than most other press releases about wine. Which is enough for your press release to stand out and get media coverage.
Chapter 4:Write Your Press Release Headline
Your next step is to write a headline for your press release.
And make no mistake:
Your press release headline is HUGE.
That’s because most journalists will decide whether or not to read your release based 100% on your headline.
So if your headline is something lame like: “Acme Inc Hires New Head of Boring Announcements” you’re dead in the water.
And in this chapter I’ll cover the two-step process you can use to write PR headlines that stand out.
The Two-Step Process To Write
PR Titles That Stand Out
Step #1: Identify your hook.
This is the same hook you developed back in chapter 2.
Step #2: Use that hook in your headline.
Seriously. That’s it!
For example, for my content study, I went with the hook: “People online tend to share long-form content”.
And I featured that hook in my headline:
The exact headline you use depends a lot on what you’re announcing.
For example, here’s a great headline for an announcement about a product:
Even though the structure and wording might be different, all good press release headlines use the same basic formula:
Here’s a great example of this formula in action:
Note that the headline doesn’t start off with their company and how great they are. That’s going to turn off most journalists. Instead, the headline kicks things off with something about cryptocurrency, which is actually interesting.
Next, they add a hook that ties their product into a current trend:
Now that they’ve hooked you, THEN they mention the company behind the news.
How to Write a Subheadline For Your Press Release
Most press release distribution sites let you add a subheadline to your release.
And I HIGHLY recommend tapping into this valuable real estate.
Because your subheadline adds detail and context to your headline… detail that can push a busy journalist to read the body of your release.
For example, you can see that my subheadline from this release adds a few key details that I didn’t have room for in the headline.
(Specifically, my subheadline added some hard numbers to back up my headline)
Chapter 5:Write Your Press Release Lead
Now it’s time to start writing your actual press release… starting with the lead.
Your lead (sometimes spelled “lede”) is the first few lines of your release.
And, as it turns out, your lead can make or break your entire release.
So in this chapter I’ll show you the right (and wrong) way to write press release leads.
Why Your Lead is KEY
In many ways, your lead is just as important as your headline.
Let’s say you get a journalist to read your release. That means your headline did its job. Which is great.
But they’re not going to cover your news unless your release grabs their attention in the first 2-3 sentences.
And that’s where your lead comes into play.
What to Include In Your Lead
The #1 thing to keep in mind is that your lead should contain something SUPER compelling right off the bat.
For example, don’t write leads that are full of fluff about how great your company is:
This kind of thing really ticks off busy journalists.
Instead, kick your lead off with a:
- New product
- Event announcement
Basically: your lead should highlight the most interesting part of your release.
For example, in my release, I lead off with a stat that I knew social media and content marketing blogs would be interested in.
Then, after I led off with a compelling stat, I went into more of the details of how the study was conducted. I also mentioned another finding.
I also recommend linking to your site in the first line.
That way, journalists don’t have to search for a link to your website. It’s right there in the first line.
Chapter 6:Write Your Body Copy
So you’ve written a great headline, subheadline and lead.
Now it’s time to write the body of your release.
And in this chapter I’ll show you the four main things to keep in mind when it comes to writing your press release body.
Write In The 3rd Person
In other words: don’t use “I”, “we”, or “you”.
So instead of:
“We’re excited to announce our new product”.
“Acme Inc. announces new product.”
You want your press release to read like an article in a newspaper.
That way, journalists can copy and paste sections of your release into their story without having to edit.
For example, I once asked someone to help write a press release for us.
And his release was full of hyped up copy.
Instead, you want your copy to sound super objective.
Here’s an example from one of our recent releases:
This kind of copy is a little dry. But it’s the tone that most journalists want to see in a press release.
Format for Skimmers
Keep in mind that no one’s going to read your release word-for-word.
So make sure to format your release for skimmers.
In practical terms, this means using short paragraphs:
And copy that’s 100% fluff free:
Use Stats, Figures and Copy-and-Paste Copy
In other words:
Write lines that journalists can easily include in their story.
If you have ‘em, stats are perfect for this.
For example, you can see that stats from my release were added directly to coverage of our study:
Add Quotes (Optional)
If you want to add some compelling content to your release, consider adding a quote or two.
In my opinion, quotes don’t usually add anything to a release (except for flowery language about how great a company is).
So if you do use quotes, I recommend keeping them to 1-2 sentences MAX.
Here’s an example of quotes in a release done right:
This quote actually adds context and addresses objections that journalists might have. Nice.
Chapter 7:Add Final Touches
At this point, your PR is almost ready to go live.
The last step is to add a few final touches that make your press release complete and ready for newswire distribution.
I’m talking about things like:
In my experience, visuals aren’t super important. But they can help your release stand out.
Plus, images are another piece of content that journalists can easily add to their story.
Add Contact Info
Every press release needs contact info. That way, bloggers or journalists that want to write about your news can follow up for more info or a quote.
So make sure to include a main contact person… along with that person’s email and phone number.
And here’s how this actually looks on a release:
Pro Tip: Let journalists know that you’re totally open to helping them write their story. You can even say something like “If you have any questions about this release, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.” This shows that you’ll actually answer emails and pick up the phone when someone calls.
Here’s a real life example:
Add Boilerplate Company Info
Finally, add a few lines about you and your company.
This section is called “Boilerplate Copy” because it’s usually the same copy on every release that you publish.
Here’s an example:
Edit Your Release
Your next step is to edit your release.
The most important tip I have for you here is to have someone read your release before you publish it.
That’s because, unlike a blog post, you can’t easily go back and make corrections to a release once it goes live.
(In fact, some services charge a fee to edit a live release)
This is a mistake I had to learn the hard way…
I recently sent out a release that had the wrong link in it.
Fortunately, the service that I used fixed the link for free.
But they let me know that they couldn’t change the links “downstream”.
Which means that 99% of the sites that my release appeared on had the wrong link. Bummer.
Today, I always have someone from my team read through the release for typos, bad links and unclear copy.
Chapter 8:Distribute Your Press Release
Last up, it’s time to distribute your press release.
Sure, you CAN just publish your release on your own website.
But you’ll get better results if use a PR distribution service.
And in this chapter I’ll help you find the right service for you.
Does Press Release Distribution Help With SEO?
Last year Google said that links in press releases are “ignored”.
And I tend to believe them.
First off, most legit press release services use nofollow or redirected links. Plus, even if those links did count, it looks like Google has something in their algorithm to specifically discount press release backlinks.
And don’t get me started on press release “syndication”.
Yes, your release WILL technically appear on those sites.
But the pages are noindex and have literally zero SEO value.
For example, one of my releases was syndicated on The Street.
But, as you can see, that page isn’t indexed in Google.
Which means it’s completely worthless for SEO.
Press releases can indirectly help your SEO in a bunch of different ways.
First off, your press release can show up in Google News, which is great for ORM.
Second, your release can get picked up and syndicated on sites that use dofollow links. And as long as they don’t just copy your exact release word-for-word, those links will help your SEO.
For example, my release was covered on this website:
This wasn’t my release getting syndicated (which, like I mentioned, has zero effect on SEO).
They literally wrote a story based on the content in my release.
Because this was an original story based on my release, that link DID count.
And that only happened because my service got my release in front of the right person.
Does The Service Have a Big Journalist Network?
So if syndication doesn’t matter, what does?
How many living, breathing journalists will actually see your release.
When it comes to having a giant network of journalists, PR Newswire is the industry leader.
Unfortunately, getting set up with them is a giant pain. First of all, you need to CALL them. Then, you have to give them your credit card info over the phone. Finally, after all that, you have to upload your release as a Word document.
(You can’t make this stuff up)
That’s why today I use NewsWire.com.
Unlike PR Newswire, it’s easy to get setup. And my release still ends up on PR Newswire… which is what matters to me.
(Note: I have no affiliation with NewsWire.com. I just like their product).
I haven’t tried them in years. But last time I did I had a good experience with both services.
Pro Tip: Don’t publish your release on the hour. Most people schedule their press releases to go out at 9:00am, 2:00pm, etc. Instead, schedule yours to go out at weird times, like 10:11am and 1:57pm. That way, your release has a better chance of standing out.
Find Relevant Journalists
Your first step is to find people that would actually want to write about your story.
In other words, you want your outreach to be LASER targeted. There’s really no point in blasting out generic emails like this:
In today’s world of spammy outreach, you’re only going to burn bridges with this approach. And you have a zero percent chance of getting picked up.
That’s why I recommend reaching out to people that already cover the exact topic of your release. Specifically, people that recently wrote about or shared something that relates to your news.
You can easily find these folks using BuzzSumo’s excellent “View Sharers” feature.
Tie-In Your News With Their Coverage
Here’s where you answer the question: “How does my news relate to what this person already writes about?”.
For example, let’s say you’re announcing a new survey about The Keto Diet.
This is how you’d want your pitch to look:
Make Your Release a Way to “Learn More”
In other words: your release shouldn’t be the focus of your message.
Instead, add a link to your press release at the end your email as a way for journalists can use to “learn more” about your story.
Here’s an example:
Bonus Chapter:Amazing Press Release Examples
Let’s close out this guide with a handful of AWESOME press releases.
So if you’re looking for press release examples that you can work from you’ll love this chapter.
Let’s get right into it.
Industry Study Press Release Example From Clutch
What’s great about this release:
- Headline leads with interesting news
- Lead highlights key stat
- Uses eye-catching chart
- Contains quotes that can be copied into stories
New Hire Press Release Example From Boxed
What’s great about this release:
- Fluff-free lead
- Contains quote from newly-hired CFO
- Includes context on company and the new CFO
- Uses a link in the first line
Funding Announcement Press Release Example From Liquid
What’s great about this release:
- Ties news into something journalists want to cover (Unicorns)
- CEO quote adds to the discussion
- Detailed boilerplate info
Product Launch Press Release Example From Apple
What’s great about this release:
- Gives hard numbers (300k units sold)
- Provides interesting stat from Steve Jobs
- Short and concise
Event Press Release Example From Petco
What’s great about this release:
- Ties event into hot topic (healthy pet food)
- Subheadline summarizes key details
- Quote from CMO tells story behind the event
Now I’d Like To Hear From You
I hope you enjoyed this guide to writing a press release.
Now I’d like to hear what you have to say:
Have you ever sent out a press release?
If so, how did it go?
Or maybe you have a question about something you read.
Either way, go ahead and leave a quick comment below right now.