How to write a good press release that'll get picked up by the media
Lessons on finding your angle, writing your headline, creating a press kit and publishing your story, learned from more than 150 of the industry's top press releases.
After more than ten years in the world of PR, we've seen what makes a great press release. We're not necessarily experts, but our clients sure are. That's why we combed through hundreds upon thousands of our clients' best press releases to find the very best press release examples, and distil them into a guide for creating an incredible, engaging press release announcement.
Here are the top things you can do right now to get your news noticed, tap into distribution over social media, and start building your brand legacy:
- Find the right angle for your audience
- How to structure a press release
- Figure out your headline
- Consider offering exclusive info, pics & opportunities
- Include multimedia assets
- Publish your press release
- Sweeten the deal for the reader
- Common mistakes to avoid when writing a press release
Publish your first press release in 5 minutes
This is the first question you need to ask yourself before you put pen to paper (figuratively speaking). Please take a moment to answer:
Who is your audience? ___________________________________
Ok, what did you put? Was it an outlet, a particular journalist, that Instagrammer who plays keyboard with his cats?
If the answer is anywhere near a "yes", then I want you to return to it and ask yourself another question: who is that person/outlet's audience?
That ultimate reader is who you are crafting your pitch towards.
Any journalist or creator worth their salt knows their audience, so what you need to do to get them to pay attention to your press release is to show them, as clearly and concisely as possible, why their audience will care about your news.
This is doubly important when it comes to actually pitching your story, but you need to keep it in mind if you want to writing an effective press release as well. While it's less likely that you will tailor your entire press release to a single publication, you might decide to draft two or three versions with different headlines and ledes for targeting, e.g., publications that cater to different sectors or formats (think Forbes vs a TikTokker).
There can, of course, be variations to this structure, but in general the classic (and modern) press release reads thus:
- Embargo – if there is one, mention is right up top; if there isn't, label it "for immediate release" instead
- Headline – more on this one in the next chapter
- Lede – introduce your angle, incorporating the key points of the story – think what, where, when, who, why should the reader care? Keep it as concise as possible
- Show your hand – give a few brief but hard-hitting bullet points outlining the key selling point of your story
- Credibility – demonstrate where this story is coming from; include sources
- Details – if your reader has made it this far, that means they're interested. Use this opportunity to give a paragraph or two of the meatiest details
- Quotes – include a ready-to-use quote from the most relevant parties
- Extras – are you offering any opportunities, such as exclusive images, interviews or statistics? Now's your chance to mention it
- Media assets* – if your story is a visual one, include an image gallery, video or link to your press kit so that anyone covering your story has everything they need at their fingertips; don't make life difficult for them
- Boilerplate – the standard short bio for the organizations and key people mentioned in your press release
- Contact details – who do people need to speak with to get more info? Include as many methods as possible to make life easier for your contacts, adding phone number and email at a minimum
When you're ready, feel free to download our free press release template 2022 here ▸
* You do have to exercise a bit of caution with point 9. Depending on the software you use, including assets in a press release that you plan on emailing out to your prospects could harm the deliverability of your email, and might even land your pitch in spam.
If you use Prezly for writing press releases, this isn't a problem, but if you use another tool please check with them before embedding large files into your press release. More details in the multimedia chapter below!
Hundreds of professional press releases are published on Prezly every single day by some of the most thoughtful, strategic communications people I've ever had the pleasure to meet.
We've used this invaluable resource to compile a library of more than 155 of the best press release examples by industry. Take a look to get a feel for the sort of tone and style that's worked for them.
The headline is the first thing a journalist sees and it has one job: to get them to read more. When you write a press release, make the headline a showstopper, else they might not read any further.
So, step one: determine who your audience is, who your competitors are, the current state of your market, and what you're doing that's so different. Then use that information to tell them why they should care about your news. (Spoiler: if you have to explain it, it's too convoluted.)
Some things you can do to make a great headline:
- Write it as if it were a headline and ask yourself, "Would I read this?"
- Ask "Why should anyone care?" until you have a solid answer
- Tailor the headline to your audience
- Make your message crystal clear
- Feel free to skip "a"s, "the"s and other flyaway words if the headline reads ok without them – remember, you're going for brevity and punch here
- Keep to <70 characters
- Surprise the reader, but don't sacrifice clarity for form. This isn't a beat poem
- Play with your grammar (punctuation, active vs passive voice...)
- Open with a wow-factor statistic
As with anything crafted for real humans, write it from their point of view. This applies to everything from press releases to social media posts to the big decals you paint on the side of your van. The tone will be different, as might the formatting, but knowing your audience is always at the heart of great copy. This is where interviewing your clients/followers/prospects can make a huge difference – for more on that, I super recommend following Katelyn Bourgoin's newsletter/blog/podcast; she's the master.
And it doesn't hurt to add some personality to your copy, a bit of flare. Do you think Han Solo makes generations swoon because his scripted lines are all factually correct? Of course not. It's all down to entertainment, bravado, timing, and charm. (Ok, it might also have something to do with Harrison Ford's face, but we can't all have Harrison Ford's face marketing our products, so it's best not to fantasize.)
Other things that catch the eye are surprising statements (!), startling statistics (!!) and celebrity namedrops (just make sure it's someone your audience will have heard of).
Things that catch the eye but are likely to land your email in the spam bin:
- CAPS-LOCK SUBJECT LINES
- $$$, £££ or similarly dodgy characters
- Excessive punctuation (what, no interrobangs‽)
So while we can't all be Han, we can take an extra 15 minutes to brainstorm a few creative alternatives to the standard "Company X releases Product Y" one-liner snoozefest before hitting "send". You scoundrel.
Those are the major pieces of advice for crafting a cool headline, but for another 2,000 words on the subject (together with an analysis of some real-life examples and advice on wordcount and tone) read our guide, How to Write a Headline that Gets Coverage ▸
Craft a headline that grabs attention and inspires action
How do these press release examples use headlines to catch your interest?
While some mass content creators will be happy to copy-paste your big press release announcement into a fresh post and call it a job well done, professional journalists and bloggers will want to tell a unique story with your input. It's this latter group that is invaluable to your brand identity.
(You can reach the former audience through bought media lists and newswires, and while this sort of straightforward coverage is still a win, it results in a lot of replicated content that savvy readers may be less inclined to trust. For a longer-term content strategy that leverages relationships, have a watch of Episode 9 of PR Roundtable, where we speak with Rand Fishkin about taking a content-led approach to PR.)
One way to sweeten the deal for any journalists eyeballing your story is to offer them something unique – a piece of information no one else knows, exclusive product shots, an interview with whoever's involved. Something that will help them make their story different from the next site over.
Did you know that multimedia press releases get up to 9.7x as many views as those using text alone? Ragan understood that in 2011, when they found that including images within your press release doubled the chance of it getting noticed; video quadrupled it. In 2022? It shouldn't even be a question. It's science.
And yet, the majority of press releases go out as barebones text. Why?
With cameraphones and stock imagery abound, there's no logical reason to exclude images, videos or other multimedia when you write a PR. Making yours high quality will set you apart from all the other stories flooding journos' inboxes.
When creating a press release, consider embedding:
- Hi-res photographs
- Social media posts
If possible, embed a gallery within your online press release, particularly if you're launching a new product or presenting a story that looks great visually. This will give the reader an immediate idea of the story you're telling without them having to read through reams of text, and arm them with a good selection of imagery to use in their coverage.
To get a great head start on the competition and save time going through these steps each time you publish a press release, set up your newsroom to function as your digital press kit. Here's a Prezly case study showing how doing just that helps gaming behemoth Crytek stay on-brand in the media and with their partners.
For insights into what you should include (as well as a peek at some real-life examples), take a look at our guide Press Kit 101: What to include in your media kit to get earned media coverage ▸
If you include a nice feature video and some appealing inserts, journalists are much more inclined to take a look at your press release and get that information to the reader.
Got a relevant tweet? Great – embed it. Someone raved about your business on YouTube? Stick it in. Got your latest product shot raking in the likes on Instagram? In it goes.
Remember: your job is to make it as simple as possible for other people to tell your story.
By embedding social proof and resources that journalists can use, you save them time as well as add context and color to your narrative.
If you use a specialized campaign client, the interface will often have an option to introduce html into the body of your story, making it possible to embed supported content. The type of content that's supported varies from provider to provider, but at the very least it should include things like tweet and YouTube video embeds. Worst-case scenario, even with plain text you will be able to copy in a link.
(We simplified it a bit in Prezly so you can just copy-paste the URL of whatever you want to embed and the system does it automatically for you, or copy-paste your entire press release draft directly from Word.)
It is no longer enough just to send out plain text press releases or a pitch, it's really important to include visual elements that outlets can use. That's a challenge that Prezly certainly helped us with.
Images and videos become extra powerful when it comes to sharing your press release on social media, since social networks will automatically generate a preview based on the content embedded within your press release. Having an attention-grabbing, vibrant image front and center in your story is an easy way to increase your chances of engagement.
If you want to go a step further and optimize your images for use on social media platforms, there are a few more things you can do…
Social is now embedded in it fully and wholly. Most important: every piece of the new social media press release must be independently shareable.
While these differ across platforms and you could spend several days cropping images to all the suggested sizes (overeager sharers might find this social media cheatsheet useful), it's generally a good idea to include:
- A landscape image (around 1200 x 628 pixels)
- A square image (1080 x 1080 pixels; think Instagram)
- If you're operating in food or creative industries – interior design, cosmetics, fashion, DIY, kid-friendly projects, crafts and hobbies – it's a good idea to include a long portrait image for easy sharing on Pinterest (236 pixels wide)
If you use Prezly to publish and distribute your press releases, you can move, crop and resize your content right in the story editor.
Whatever you do, do not, for the love of all that is decent in the world, send all these beautiful assets as email attachments. In fact, let me repeat that for anyone that might be skimming this article:
You may be able to get away with a small picture or two, but anything more weighty is likely to land your pitch in your recipient's spam folder, particularly if you're emailing multiple people at once.
Instead of email attachments, use a hosting service to get your assets from one place to another – there are tonnes available, my favorite on-demand and free file transfer service being WeTransfer, though others prefer Dropbox.
Of course, if you have a Prezly newsroom, you can just embed whatever media you want straight into your press release and not worry about any of this – your campaign will reach your intended recipient no matter how much media you ram in there.
And if that doesn't seem like reason enough, how about this: journalists hate hate hate email attachments. Hey, I don't make the rules – just listen to these two:
You can watch the full episode at PR Roundtable: How Writers Want To Be Pitched
Be very careful when including images, videos and really any attachments in your campaigns. Email clients can interpret bulky email attachments as spam and filter them out of the recipient inbox, rendering your carefully executed press release all but invisible.
Better practice is to host your media somewhere reliable and embed it in your email so that it takes up very little space. (If you're using Prezly, we take care of all that for you, so all you have to do is insert the image/video/audio file/tweet – or whatever you like – hit send, and we do the rest. In fact, there are a few other things we do to increase your email deliverability.)
The best press release examples below are a masterclass in how different industries can use multimedia to wow the beholder. Notice that each one uses a bold, vibrant hero image at the very top of the story, follows with less than 100 words of flavour text, and then immediately rewards the reader with more visual stimuli.
Each of these press releases was created and sent out through Prezly, and they all hit their target inboxes even with all those galleries, videos and attachments in tow.
Get creative with vibrant imagery and embedded videos
These brands grab attention with color and story, making you want to see more
If you aren't doing so already, consider setting up a newsroom for your brand or project and using it to house your backlog of news, contacts and media assets. Not only does it contextualize your news within your greater brand narrative, it also helps anyone online discover your news.
You can create a newsroom in myriad different ways, whatever your budget, from dedicating a part of your normal site to news updates, to setting up a free blog account through WordPress or Wix, to using a dedicated piece of newsroom software. (You'll forgive us for being biased towards that last option, since customizable newsrooms come as standard with Prezly subscriptions.)
Having a newsroom gives you the power to control at least some of the narrative around your brand, establishes a history for your venture and gives people – journalists, bloggers and customers alike – a source of truth for your business.
This is incredibly important at a time when most of what people read about your enterprise comes from third-party sources, like social media posts and review sites.
Put simply, your newsroom is your brand's legacy online. But there are other benefits to hosting your best press releases on a live site versus shooting them out via discrete email campaigns.
Our coverage increased exponentially after we implemented our Prezly newsroom properly and set it up on our website.
Typing up a press release announcement and sending it to your treasured contacts has some obvious drawbacks:
- If your contact misses the email, they miss the story
- Whenever you have an update or correction to add in, you have to send it as an amendment in yet another email to your contacts, which makes controlling your narrative difficult
- Every time you want to share your story or pitch it to someone new, you have to fiddle with copying the press release across, tweaking formatting, attaching assets and so on
Our clients don't suffer from any of these problems for one simple reason: every Prezly account comes with at least one online newsroom (Premium+ plans come with five).
Of course, you don't need to use a dedicated PR suite like Prezly to make your own newsroom, though there are clear benefits. As mentioned before, a page on your existing website or even a free blog like WordPress can get you off to a good start.
Setting up an online newsroom and using it to house your brand's latest stories makes it easy for you to:
- Keep information current
- Provide additional resources and company context
- Share and reshare your stories with a single URL
- Set up public and private stories
- Schedule embargoes
Plus, there's a bonus more tech-savvy PRs like to keep hush-hush:
- An online newsroom means more eyes on your story because it shows up on Google
Prezly makes it so easy to host press releases in a newsroom and have it be not only a one-time thing, but something that you can repurpose and create new pitches around constantly.
A big plus of having all your press releases published online is the SEO juice. By including language relevant to your (or your client's) industry in your newsroom and press releases, you're making it a lot more likely that anyone searching for a product/solution/organization like yours will stumble upon one of your posts in Google results – particularly useful for B2C businesses.
To help the process along, consider doing the following:
- Use a keyword research tool like Moz (30-day free trial) to pick out terminology to include in your stories
- Google your press release headlines and see what related searches come up to figure out what other people are looking for
- Consider publishing blog posts in your newsroom that answer search queries from the previous bullet point – you can use newsroom categories to keep these separate from your press releases (see case study)
It's also a good idea to include a link to some further assets relevant to your news, company or product in every press release campaign you send out – in other words, to the media center of your newsroom.
After all, is there anything worse than opening up that big piece of coverage you've been waiting for all week only to find they published your CEO's 2016 Facebook profile pic? Nobody wants that.
Far better is to remove any potential for miscommunication by linking every press release to your media center, which at the very minimum should include:
🌓 Light and dark versions of your logo
Transparent background, .png or .svg file type; nothing smaller than 200 pixels across and strictly no .jpgs.
💁♀️ High-resolution, professional photos of your management team
Include anyone likely to be featured in news coverage. Original photograph files are best, as these will be of the highest quality – particularly important when targeting print publications, which are unlikely to accept images less than 2000 pixels wide and 300 dpi resolution.
👕 High-resolution product shots
This is also a nice opportunity to get a shot of your logo in action, on your office wall, a t-shirt, your product – something a bit more interesting that adds context to your brand.
🎥 Videos if at all possible
Cut these into soundbites and social-media-friendly lengths (that means 30 seconds max), and close the shot with a call-to-action or url where the viewer can go to learn more.
Remember, your aim here is to arm journalists, bloggers and influencers with the resources they need to present your news in the best possible light. Make it easy for them.
Ok, I'm going to get this out of the way upfront because I know you don't want to hear it: you need to make multiple versions of your press release.
Is it time-consuming to write more than one version of each press release? Sure. But is it totally worth it?
Of course it's worth it.
This comes hand in hand with knowing your audience. What interests this person? What's their beat? What audience does their story need to appeal to? What are they going to need?
The more familiar you are with your contacts, the more likely you are to know when a story will resonate with them. (This is one of the many reasons we champion smaller, targeted campaigns over mass-mailing strangers through bought media lists – with the latter, that relationship just isn't there.)
When you're thinking about how to write a good press release, content, form and style is all very well and good – but none of it will mean squat if you haven't tailored it to your very niche audience.
Sure, most of the world is fluent in English, but that doesn't mean you should be lazy with your localization. If you have more than one office or a remote workforce, it shouldn't be too difficult to get your story translated.
If there are several languages you hit up frequently – say, the bulk of your audience is split between Belgium and Mexico – take the opportunity to set up your newsroom in French, Spanish and Dutch so that people can toggle between them. Prezly makes multi-language newsrooms easy to set up, but you can do it manually too through whatever hosting service you use.
For a great example of press release localization in action, watch our short interview with the Arab Image Foundation: How one non-profit shares multilingual stories to stay current locally and internationally.
In short, remove whatever barriers stand between your story and your reader.
The translate tool on Prezly is really good because, when I'm done with my English [story], I press translate and I don't have to re-input – basically the images, the videos, the whole structure is there.
And it shouldn't stop at language.
Take the time to research how your announcement affects the city, region, country, continent you're emailing – in short, is there a special reason why a person in a particular place would be interested in your news?
This also gives you the advantage of getting more than one angle of your story covered, which is especially handy when negotiating on exclusive content (more on that below).
And if you work across a bunch of territories, but they all speak English? That's no excuse not to localize details like currency, which can be a subconscious deterrent, as Nicole Yeardsley points out in our Wallsauce PR case study:
"I find that particularly with the US, they like to think you're a US company because, of course, we need to ship them a physical product and they want to know that they'll get it this week and not months from now."
Smart move, Nicole! You're nailing it 💅
You put six exclamation marks into your headline to illustrate the urgency of the news, but for some reason no one's biting
Ok, we talked about this in more detail above, but basically the rule is: if you saw this headline in your inbox, would you immediately assume it was spam? If so, do not use that headline.
That means no excessive punctuation, caps lock and dollar signs. $ORR¥!!!
This is hands down the #1 mistake we've all made at some point, but CEOs are more guilty of it than most. "I think the sun shines out of my startup's pants, so why wouldn't everyone? Yes they need to know we've bought a new coffee machine."
Make sure the story is a fit with the publication or outlet you're pitching, and fits the interests of their audience. If in doubt, ask a colleague or friend to take a look at it (do not ask your mum).
Have some other advice or questions we've missed out? Let me know :)
Published February 2022