The perfect press release length: how long should a press release be? We asked the experts
We're passionate about press releases around here.
It's one of our favorite topics, right up there with pets and coffee. But you can't fully discuss effective press releases without talking about press release length. Why? Well, you don't want to be in the awkward position of writing an Infinite Jest-esque novel when only a few paragraphs would suffice. Or, inversely, you don't want to write a press release the length of a tweet when it would've been better to include a few more details.
We get it, you're a professional. You want the best, most optimal press release length that will earn your clients the maximum coverage possible. We're here to break it all down for you. And maybe share some pictures of our pets.
- How long should a press release be?
- Why aren't press releases longer?
- What if someone goes over the recommended press release length?
- What do the experts have to say?
- Next steps
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Let's break this down a bit, because it's not quite as simple as it seems. When we talk about "length" we don't necessarily just mean word count or page count.
The average press release should be no more than 500 words, and ideally closer to 300-400 for optimal press release length.
If that seems short, it is! It's also quite specific. What if you only want to write 295 words? Is it no longer ideal? No, 295 words are fine. No one is going to arrest you. In fact, very few people are going to count the number of words in your press release.
300-500 word length is the generally accepted rule because that's how many words fit on a standard A4 piece of paper. Now, you're likely reading this on the internet and if you're anything like us, you haven't seen an actual piece of paper in years. But tradition dies hard.
Keep your press release as succinct and digestible as possible, but you don't need to lose sleep over a specific word count. Keep it under 500 words as a good general rule but as long as you're following all the other, more important guidelines for good press releases, you should be golden.
Traditionally, the ancient wisdom was that the ideal press release should not be more than one page. The first press release sent in 1906 (yeah, we checked Wikipedia) was intended for quick and efficient distribution by hand. Length is less important now because we're no longer sending press releases on A4 pieces of paper.
While you don't necessarily need to keep your content to 11.7 x 8.3 inches, your copy should still be minimal. However, with electronic presskits and keeping your newsroom online, you now have the opportunity to showcase image galleries, multimedia, and plenty of other goodies for your readers. Press releases are just better with multimedia.
Long story short: keep the words to a minimum, but don't stress about the length. Unless you're still sending printed physical copies of your press releases, in which case, we need to have a talk.
Is including more details a crime? As we've previously established, it's not legally a crime but journalistically, it might be.
Our writer and media friends (and trust us, we have many friends because we are very cool) really don't have the time to be wading through meandering text. The news cycle is fast, and they want to get to the point so they can get onto their next deadline. You'll never see a journalist who was like, "wow, I wanted to spend more time researching that topic, I loved how long the source material was."
More than writing to some arbitrary guideline of word length, make sure your press release is exactly as long as it needs to be to communicate that pertinent information, and no longer. Give the media precisely what they need to cover your story, but don't bog them down in messy details.
Explosions. In the distance, sirens.
No, not really. Again, these are guidelines, not rules. As long as you're factoring in the time of the journalists and writers who will be covering your story, the rest is just suggestions.
That being said, the length is important. After bungling the headline, having a press release be too long is probably one of the most common press release mistakes we see. Why? Because a press release that goes longer than necessary is going to turn away journalists and decrease coverage.
This cannot be overstated: journalists don't have the time for fluff. Part of building good relationships with the media is respecting their time. If someone in comms gets a reputation for repeatedly sending way-too-long press releases, they are less likely to prioritize those stories and may not even open those emails.
This entire PR Roundtable livestream was chock-full of juicy bits about the best way to pitch writers and journalists, and it's certainly a must-see for getting into the headspace of how to pitch to the storytellers.
Don't take our word for it. We asked some lovely people in the communication space what they recommend. We spoke with PR practitioners, publicists, and educators who shared their thoughts on the matter:
A strong opening paragraph will often be the deciding factor of whether a journalist reads the rest of the piece. A great guide to writing your opening statement is to consider the 5 Ws – “who, what, when, where, why, and how?”. This ensures that you’ve communicated the premise of the story in the first couple of sentences, setting the scene for the journalist and outlining everything they need to know to decide if they are interested. The ideal length of a release is about one page -- any longer is way too much detail for journalists to absorb and any shorter can probably become a phone pitch.
In the classroom, I teach my students that an ideal length for a press release is around 400 words – or a fully printed page. But the length can absolutely vary as long as the critical components of a release have been met. If a press release is communicating something newsworthy (significant, local, balanced, timely, unusual or plays off fame), and the basic who, what, when, where, why, and how have been addressed, the release could be as short as 200 words (content depending).
The most important part of a strong press release is getting to the point quickly. The first paragraph should outline exactly what the news is without burying it in flowery words and details. Journalists are busy, and this makes it much easier for them to skim the release to see what they need to know. If a press release is too long or wordy, a journalist is more likely to ignore it. A few paragraphs is enough to provide a clear outline of the news, some background information, and a few quotes.
The message is clear: get to the point and communicate your message efficiently.
- Trim the fat - Use powerful, active words that tell a story.
- Write to the audience, not the brand - You want to keep the CEO (and especially the CFO) happy, but getting good coverage requires you to draft your press release with the media in mind. Effective press releases aren't for vanity and aren't even particularly meant to make the company look good (though, ideally, they still will). The point is to communicate news, so write to the storytellers and get them the information they need before anything else.
- Optimize for SEO, but don't make SEO the end goal - A press release can be a great boost for SEO, but a press release shouldn't be written for SEO. Often when writing to the search engines, we need to do some keyword stuffing and meet certain word counts. A press release isn't the place for that.
- Edit, edit, edit - Not every detail needs to be shared in the press release. Think about the details you want to be covered and link out to the rest, or just delete it. People who want further information can certainly find it, but don't bog down the people who are just here to skim.
- Do you need quotes, or do you just want them? - Not every press release needs quotes. In fact, they can sometimes do more harm than good if the quote is generic and doesn't really add to the message. Consider omitting the quote if it just adds word count, not value.
If you're looking for more on how to craft the perfect press release, peep these delightful articles written by some really smart and fun people.
Or, if smart and fun people are your thing, subscribe to our ongoing PR Roundtable where our founder Jesse grills some of the brightest PR minds.
Lastly, shout us out on social! If you completely disagree, totally agree, or have absolutely no feelings about press release length whatsoever, we'd love to hear your thoughts.