Press release format 2023: The checklist for formatting a press release that rocks
Yes, you know what to write about. You've got the right angle. But how will you structure it to make it a showstopper?
Ready to format the hell out of your press release? We've outlined everything your press release needs, the step-by-step guide to formulating your press release, and some awesome examples from people who are killing it.
Are you ready to take your press releases to the next level? Let's go...
The headline is the first thing a journalist sees and it has one job: get them to read more. Make it good, or they may not read any further. Some things you can do to make a great headline:
- Write the headline and then ask yourself "Would I read this?"
- Answer the question "So what?" until you have something solid
- Entice the imagination
- Play with your grammar (punctuation, active vs passive voice...)
Here is a solid example from OECS that shows that a headline doesn't need to be flashy to be great:
Quick, clear, and to the point. It gives enough details that a journalist can quickly decide if it would be appropriate for their audience or not.
The headline is such a key piece of the press release puzzle, and we have plenty to say on headlines, if you're so inclined:
No pressure, but a good press release headline will either completely make or break your entire press release.
Address your most important point in the first paragraph of your press release. Make it clear what the story is. Keep the rest of the release to two pages or less. One page is better. Frankly, the shorter the better.
Keep in mind that your audience is busy, and while your product launch or merger/acquisition is vitally important to your company, the majority of your readers won't want to spend their entire afternoon reading about it.
Read more of our riveting thoughts on press release lengths.
Facts and statistics will make your story stronger. Use them. But be sure to double-check your sources to make sure they’re credible and provide links to them in the release. Don't let your reputation be ruined by someone else's.
When Belgian startup Cowboy announced their funding round, they made it clear in their press release why their company was on the up and up:
Numbers and concrete data are a fantastic way to show, not tell about your news. Everyone claims to be the best. Fewer companies, however, are willing to back up their claims with the nitty-gritty details. If you have some statistics to bust out and differentiate yourself, use them.
A good quote will make your story more interesting and human. Quotes can come from people inside or outside your company (or both), as long as they’re relevant.
The key point being, relevant. Useless, boring, generic quotes will drag your press release down and waste space. Include quotes that you want to see in print, that are from interesting people who are pertinent to the story, and who build up the narrative rather than distract from it. It's better to not use quotes at all than it is to use bad quotes.
Make it easy for readers and journalists to share your press release. Call out share buttons, retweetable phrases, include visuals that can accompany a post, and anything else you want them to share. Simply hosting it in a digital format is step one.
Social is now embedded in it fully and wholly. Most important: every piece of the new social media press release must be independently shareable.
Many journalists read pitches on the go, so make sure your press release looks as good on a mobile screen as it does on a monitor. Formatting isn't always the first thing we think of when we think of a press release, but it really can make the difference between a journalist digging into your story, or simply disregarding it because the font is inscrutably small or the images are blown out on a phone.
Take a second to open your press release on a cell phone or tablet before publishing, just to make sure that you won't lose out on coverage because of formatting issues.
This one sounds obvious, but it’s also easy to overlook. Make it easy for journalists to contact you for more details. Include a name, email address, and phone number on every press release.
And you HAVE to have contact information at the end. And not just that, but you better be REPLYING to those contacts quickly, too. Don’t add an email address you never check, or a phone number for a line you never answer! - Jason Gilbert, Senior Editor, Yahoo! Tech
High resolutions images will make your press releases look beautiful and professional. You get bonus points if you don't make the journalist download the images before seeing them!
No modern press release should be without images, or even video. They’re easy to use, cheap to get, and proven to increase views. Images and videos are extra powerful when you share your press release on social media. Social networks automatically generate an image preview, increasing your odds of engagement.
Journalists don't want to chase down your assets in order to cover your story. Make their lives easier, avoid the back-and-forth email threads, and bypass the terrible Dropbox hell by including downloadable, high-quality assets directly into your press release. Bonus points if you include an entire image gallery so they have additional images to choose!
Remember, the key is digestible, easily-readable, informative. Using the appropriate formatting will keep your text from being to blocky and hard to follow.
- Bullet points are great for this!
- Italics, bold, and (wait for it), underlined text are fantastic for adding emphasis
- Be intentional with your formatting, as it can read as unprofessional in certain contexts.
For the sake of brevity, include hyperlinks to information that doesn't absolutely have to be featured in the press release. It's better to link out to company information, future projects, and further details than to include it and run the risk of overwhelming the reader. A few well-placed links could easily replace several sentences, if not paragraphs, worth of information that the majority of people wouldn't necessarily need.
Get everything you need to communicate in one central location. Quotes, assets, dates, links. Compile everything you'll need because it's really frustrating trying to structure your press release when you keep getting piecemeal information. Having everything ready to go will make this whole process a lot less painful.
No need to bury the lede. Capture your audience's attention quickly. Basically, don't make them scroll very far to figure out what the press release is about. Things like contact information, media galleries, and less-than-critical details can be included at the back end (if at all).
Read your press release, and then read it again. See if there's any fat to trim, or any lengthy paragraphs that could be turned into easily digestible bullet points. People love bullet points. Check your release for unnecessary jargon or wordiness. Lastly, make sure you make sure your copy is in AP style. More on that later.
You can certainly write the headline before you write the text body, nobody will stop you, however we suggest writing the headline at the end of the press release. Why? Because after the body of the press release is written, you'll have a crystal clear understanding of the key message, and you'll be able to tailor the headline to the news, not tailor the news to the headline.
This also helps prevent inconsistencies between the headline and what is actually delivered. Writing the headline after drafting the copy will keep the contents fresh in your mind so you can make your headline completely accurate.
Additionally, if you find that you're struggling with step number four, maybe head back to step number three for a bit until the message is clear and concise as it can be.
Naturally, you want to make sure to include plenty of information about the company. The press release doesn't really matter if people don't know who you are, what you do, and why you do it. A boilerplate is a fantastic opportunity to share the pertinent information about what sets you apart as an agency.
You're done! Your headline is perfect, the copy is concise and clear, the images are sized perfectly and high-quality. Now you can send your press release to anyone and everyone: journalists, writers, people in your industry, your mom.
The Associated Press frequently puts out its updated style guide as the premier handbook for how to write, well, anything journalistic, and this certainly extends to your press release. The Associated Press is the gold standard, so knowing what they require from your words is beneficial for gaining coverage.
You can certainly write your press release without factoring in the AP style, however, it's not recommended. Why? Many professional news publications prefer (or require) it. So you may want to reconsider your over-reliance on emojis in your press release headline, lest you anger the AP gods.
The most updated 55th edition of the AP style guide doesn't explicitly state exactly how to write your press release, but it does have some good tidbits about how to write the best press release format and how to use punctuation and grammar to your advantage.
Pro tip: We like the online version of the style guide because it's searchable which is super duper useful for quick reference.
So we are now going to now show you the absolute best, most perfect press release format template that the world has ever seen. It's kind of a big deal, so strap in and get ready.
Just kidding, sorry for tricking you.
The truth is, there is no perfect template where you can just plug in words and numbers that will make your press release absolutely perfect. Engaging your readers and inspiring journalists requires more than that, which can make creating the perfect press release format a bit tricky, if not outright impossible.
Additionally, there are so many different types of press releases out there. What works for one agency and one industry would seem totally bonkers for another.
However, as long as you incorporate all the basics mentioned above and you have an eye for design and flow, your press release will kick butt, even without a template. It helps to have a great tool to use when distributing press release materials (we can think of one but we won't mention it because that would be gauche).
Really, the best way to learn about how to format a press release is by observing how the professionals do it. Who do you admire in the communications space, and how are they telling their story?
There's something to be said for not doing it just like everyone else. Having your press releases just be a carbon copy of every other press release out there is a good way to make your readers' eyes glaze over.
There's just something unpleasant about opening a document and just seeing a wall of plain text. There's certainly a time and a place for it, but the majority of press releases don't have to be boring in order to be informative.
Some of our favorite clients take a distinct and unique approach to their newsrooms and press releases. They take bold risks and turn their clients' news releases, product launches, and CSR initiatives, into something that truly stands out.
And lastly, remember that for every press release guideline or tradition, there are a hundred people successfully breaking the rules, thinking outside the box, and distrubuting awesome press releases that win coverage.
Want to see some great examples of well-formatted press releases? We update this directory regularly to bring you visually stunning and impactful press releases you can use for inspiration.
We examine some of the top-performing press releases of recent years to uncover 4 practical steps you can take today to improve your PR performance.
Okay, so now you have a good idea of what you absolutely should include in a press release, but what about the specific outline of the press release?
Take a look at these press releases for inspiration.
Porsche - A new Porsche innovation project allows drivers to quickly and easily digitalise their favourite routes
Why is this press release fantastic?
- I mean, look at those visuals.
- Vibrant language tells a compelling story.
- All the most important information is quickly accessible.
Why is this press release fantastic?
- The press release covers all the basics (who, what, when, where, and why) quickly and plainly. The reader doesn't need to parse out why this press release is being distributed. The succinct headline and organized text make the purpose clear.
- The images are high-quality and the color scheme is consistent throughout.
- Contact information is clear with plenty of relevant links.
Why is this press release fantastic?
- This release is a great reminder that press releases are not one-size-fits-all. Many industries will have fun, vibrant press releases. Some industries will require more straight-forward, serious press releases.
- Matches the tone to fit the product.
- Multimedia, great images, and bullet points tell this story succinctly.
Properly formatting your press release is important. A good press release communicates professionalism, helps you get coverage, and allows you to share your news on your terms.
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