5 Refreshers for Writing an Effective Press Release

Katie Shill
Katie Shill

As PR professionals, we understand the value of a well-written, timely press release. A crucial part of any successful public relations strategy, a press release provides you with an opportunity to boost your company visibility and have control of the news that’s being shared.

Before you even develop a press release, ask yourself two questions: Would reporters find the content compelling; and is this the kind of announcement that journalists in your space would like to cover? If your answer is ‘no’ to either of those questions, it’s time to rethink the news that you’re sharing. If your answers are ‘yes,’ it’s time to get to writing.

Here are five tips to ensure that you’re writing the most effective press releases for your brand:

> Know the alternatives: First, ask yourself whether a press release is the best way to share this particular news or announcement. Be a strategic advisor to your clients. Share alternatives that may be just as effective—if not more effective—than press releases, including social media updates or corporate blog posts.

> Avoid corporate speak: Be as clear as possible. Take the time to fully understand all aspects of the press release, and translate technical, corporate jargon into terms that speak directly to your audience. Get rid of words like “innovative,” “unique,” “leverage” and “optimize”—they are so overused that they’re often deemed meaningless. To help find the best word replacements, use websites like Un-Suck It or Learnings.org.

> Streamline your release to just one angle: Simplify your message by focusing your press release on one idea. Don’t think that you’re getting the most bang for your buck by including various corporate messages because, in the end, those messages will confuse and disinterest the reader. Minimize qualifiers and conditional tenses and remember to stick to active sentences with strong verbs. The simpler the message, the greater chance you have of your audience remembering the key facts.

> Focus on features and benefits. The features should answer the question, “What?” while the benefits should answer the question, “Why?” Showcase the facts of your announcement, followed by an explanation of the product’s value for the end user or target audience. Focus on making sure people want to learn more information: What’s in it for them?

> Optimize for search: Keep SEO tactics in mind when writing your press release. Be sure to include relevant keywords within the first 60 characters of the headline. If you’re unsure of which keywords will be most effective, use the Keyword Tool in Google Analytics to see popular phrases that yield the best results.

Writing press releases is a core part of what we do as PR professionals. It’s essential that we take a step back and rethink our approaches every once in a while. What are some of your tried and true tips for writing press releases that you have found to be most successful?

Katie Shill is an account executive at Affect. She can be reached at kshill@affect.com.

  • Kayla Vigneaux

    Great article with helpful reminders! While I agree with the two questions you stated that must be asked before producing a press release, shouldn’t a third question include “whether your publics would care about what you’re saying”? Why spend the time producing content if it’s not helping your publics with a need or want they have?

    • Katie Shill

      Thanks for your comment, Kayla. I think your question is great to keep in mind, as well. When you’re identifying the newsworthy components of your announcement, it’s important to know who the announcement is intended for (whether it be a press release or a social media update). By first understanding who will be reading it, you can then craft your message and language to appeal to that audience.

  • markgrimm

    Good points. Critical aspect: Answer the question the media member has, “What’s in it for them? You must be clear about that. More here in short tape from ex TV anchor: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wOBTdvyWWNk

  • http://www.buildandbalance.com/ Michael_N

    Hi. I’m an advertising guy and have only written a few press releases for my business to date. However, I feel like I have a tip to share. How about thinking ahead to what might make a good pull quote? I feel like releases that have quotes from involved people make a release more active and interesting as long as the quote isn’t gratuitous. What’s your feeling on including quotes in releases? And thanks for the great tips by the way!

    • Katie Shill

      Hi Michael – I definitely agree with you. Adding in executive quotes can certainly add more value to the release, while also adding personality to the news that you’re sharing. When developing a quote for a release, it’s important to ensure that there is strategic value for including it. They add a human touch and authenticity to the release, but if the quotes don’t sound “real,” it’s easy to miss the mark.

      Another common trap that people get into when writing quotes for releases is starting them with “We’re so excited for this announcement…” Again, instead of writing about how “exciting” the announcement / news is, write a quote that visibly showcases the value, importance and significance that this news has on the parties involved. You’ll see much more success with your release if you take that approach to writing the quotes.

      Hope this helps!


      • http://www.buildandbalance.com/ Michael_N

        Katie, Thank you for the great advice on how to work best with quotes in releases! I can see how it would be tempting to say, “We’re so excited…” and the strategic value test is a good one to avoid inserting a meaningless quote just because you think it’s a good idea. I appreciate your insight.

  • Al

    Nice post ma’am, This advice will help me with the class I’m taking on public relations. The teacher had mentioned some of the principles you mentioned as well. I will have to use these on the media assignments my group has.