As the owner of a small business, you know how beneficial good publicity can be.
But you also know that good publicity doesn’t just show up on your doorstep; you have to go out and earn it.
Even if your brand deserves to have its name in headlines, that doesn’t mean news outlets are going to start talking about it of their own volition.
Sometimes, you need to be the catalyst that sparks them to action. Which is when following a proper press release format can prove valuable.
What Is a Business Press Release?
A press release is a clear, concise and engaging document featuring breaking news regarding your company.
Press releases are specifically meant to attract and engage the attention of various news outlets or journalists who may be interested in writing about your news within their publications. In turn, the parties form a mutually-beneficial partnership: The journalist gets material for a news story, and the company gains some additional publicity in a third-party publication.
The best press release formats touch on the following information:
- Who the correspondent company is
- What the company is announcing
- Where and When the subject of the announcement pertains to
- How things will change based on this news
- Why journalists and their audiences should care
In this article, we’re going to explain exactly how to format a press release to communicate this information best—allowing you to capture the attention of your target media outlets.
Why Is Press Release Formatting So Important?
One of the answers to the above question is pretty straightforward: If nothing else, by following a basic press release format, you’ll communicate an air of professionalism. On the contrary, a poorly-formatted document will not reflect well on your business.
But formatting is more than just making your press releases look good.
For your press releases to accomplish what you’ve planned for them, they need to:
- Immediately provide hard-hitting information
- Develop an emotionally-driven narrative
- Contextualize the issue and explain the value to your audience
- Finally, an effective business press release format tells your audience exactly what to do next to engage further with your company.
How to Format a Press Release Properly
Here, we’ll break down the many different parts of a basic press release format, and explain how to approach the creation of each.
Your headline is your first—and often only—chance to get the attention of potential journalists and news outlets.
That being the case, you need to craft a headline that’s worthy of their attention in the first place.
Now, there are several ways to do this, such as using your headline to:
- Make a surprising claim or announcement
- Answer a burning question from your industry
- Announce a new solution to a common problem
Your headline should get your audience to stop in their tracks, knowing full-well that your business press release will provide value to them in some way or another.
Time (Optional: Location)
This is pretty straightforward: Your press release should include the date and time that the content within can be considered “official.”
You should also include any location-specific information as applicable. This is appropriate if the content of your press release specifically refers to a certain location (such as a report on the opening of a new brick-and-mortar store).
Sample time and location press release format:
The adage “don’t bury the lede” is famous for a reason:
If the first paragraph of your press release doesn’t keep your audience’s attention, they’re going to quickly move on to the next piece of mail in their inbox.
Here’s where you need to hit your reader hard with some preliminary information that’s going to leave them wanting more.
This preliminary information includes the more surface-level data, such as the “who,” “what,” “where” and “when” we mentioned earlier.
This information sets the stage for your reader to dive a bit deeper into your press release.
The body of your press release is where you can extrapolate on the information you’ve presented thus far.
The best press release format features body paragraph(s) that include:
- A detailed explanation of the claims made in your headline and lede
- Irrefutable evidence to back up this overarching claim (and any subsequent claims)
- Quotes from experts, stakeholders and other trusted industry sources supporting the press releases statements
An example of body paragraphs in a press release format:
The body of your press release is meant to close the loop that its headline and lede opened in your reader’s mind. If your body can satisfy your audience’s craving for information in just the right way, they’re more likely to reach out to you for more information.
The boilerplate of a press release is where you include essential information about your company. Here’s an example:
Key pieces of information to include in your boilerplate include your company’s
- History (e.g., years in operation, founding location, areas of operation, etc.)
- Accomplishments (e.g., sales numbers, awards, etc.)
Since boilerplates are a standard part of all press release formats, your readers will typically scan to this section to get an idea of who your company is (that is, if they’ve never heard of you). That said, you must take this opportunity to paint your company in the best light possible.
The end of your press release should include information your readers can use to get in touch with your organization.
Typically, this is presented as a call to action.
The contact person you identify is, of course, up to your discretion. Usually, it would be your media coordinator or PR representative—or whoever assumes these responsibilities within your organization.
Best Practices When Writing a Press Release
Now that we know how to go about creating a press release let’s go over 3 things you need to do to ensure it gets read.
1. Identify Your Specific Business Goals
Before you even get started, you need to be able to answer the following question: What do I hope to gain from writing this press release?
- Trying to spread awareness of your brand’s new offerings?
- Hoping to generate more business in a specific geographic location?
- Looking to build (or rebuild) your brand’s reputation in some way?
Identifying your business goals before writing a press release is essential. Without considering these goals, you run the risk of creating a press release that checks off all of the press release format boxes but doesn’t provide any value to your readers and business.
2. Target Best-Fit Publications
For a press release to help you achieve your business goals, it needs to get picked up by the right publications.
By “right,” we mean the right publications for your brand and your purposes.
On some level, this is a no-brainer: If your brand is announcing a new children’s toy, you wouldn’t send your press release to a journalist who writes for a fishing publication, right?
Still, this doesn’t mean that targeting just any publication related to your industry will do. You’d also want to consider a variety of other factors, such as:
- Audience size
- Audience demographics
- The publication’s reputation
The goal is to connect with a well-known and respected entity who can showcase your brand’s news in the most effective way possible—to the people who most want to hear about it.
3. Write for Your Intended Audiences
You have two intended audiences when creating a press release:
- The target journalist or publication (your audience for the news brief)
- The journalist’s or publication’s audience (your target customers)
Now, as we’ve discussed throughout this article, your primary concern is catching the attention of the journalist who will, in turn, tell their audience about your story. The journalist’s primary concern, then, is finding news stories that will interest their audience.
So, while your press release should be crafted in a way that engages your targeted journalists, it should also include information that is relevant to your target customers.
By consistently getting the right message in front of the right audience, through the right medium, your press releases will continue to bring you closer to your business goals.