This is part of our ongoing series of articles on how to write a press release. As we explain in our course on how to write press releases and get publicity, a press release is a distinct form of writing. It’s not marketing. Nor is it journalism. It’s sort of a hybrid of the two, with some subtle nuances of format, tone and style. With that in mind, here are what we call the 7 Ground Rules of press release writing. If you can keep these in mind, you will be able to craft an effective press release.
- Always makes a clear announcement—A press release announces something new. Remember, the word “new” is in “news.” You should not be announcing something that everyone already knows. Some PR people call press releases “announcements.” There’s a reason for that.
- Deliver an easy-to-understand message in the opening “lede” paragraph—The first paragraph of a press release is known as the “lede.” We know, it’s a weird word, but that’s what it’s called. If you want to sound like a pro, you’ll write it “lede.” In any event, the lede is about answering the classic journalist questions of “Who, what, when, why, how and where?” The paragraph, and ideally even the first sentence of the press release should consist of a simple message like “[Company] today announced [something newsworthy],” e.g. “Acme today announced the availability of a new widget.” Though opinions differ on this, we strongly discourage opening a press release with a sentence like “Widgets are the awesome creations of the human universe, bringing joy to millions of earthlings.” Get to the point, and quickly.
- Use third person, objective writing— Press releases need to be written in the third person, i.e. “It, he, she, they,” and not “I, we, my, our” language. For example, the phrase “Our company offers widgets” should be rewritten as “The company offers widgets.”
- Avoid overt selling or hyperbole—Press release style may seem a little flat to marketing people. That’s okay. The press release is not a selling document, at least overtly. It sells implicitly. Avoid language like “ACME is awesome, the undisputed best-in-class widget maker worldwide,” unless that is a fact you can prove, for example by third-party attribution. Rather, say something like, “ACME has a reputation for being one of the world’s top widget makers.” See the difference?
- Answer the question “Why should I care about this?”—You should not assume that the reader knows why our news is important. Even if you are writing for a narrow industry audience, it’s wise to offer an explanation of why the announcement matters. Further to this point, it’s usually a good idea to spell out industry acronyms.
- Be brief and succinct—How long should a press release be? Opinions vary on this, but in our experience, 300-400 words are plenty. Longer press releases are usually reserved for multi-part announcements from big companies.
- Remember, a press release is not an article—It is a document that enables a reporter to write an article.
If you follow these ground rules, you will be on your way to writing high impact, professional style press releases.