Three Must-Haves in Your Next Press Release

As the media landscape continues to change at a dizzying pace, it can be difficult for PR and communications pros to keep pace. Layoffs continue to mount, while the manner in which news is delivered and consumed by audiences is constantly evolving. Despite these rapid changes, one thing remains for certain when it comes to generating earned media: the press release still matters.

Over the years, Cision's annual State of the Media reports have shown that the press release consistently ranks at the top of the list when it comes to the types of content journalists say they want from brands. It serves as the most useful source of information for journalists when generating content or story ideas.

But what goes into creating a press release that will generate interest from journalists? While there is no secret formula, the fact is that writing an effective press release is part art, part science. Fortunately, there is enough data available to set you on the path to success. Here we'll touch on three critical components for an effective press release.

A Headline that Generates Engagement

Before you can get a journalist to engage with your press release, you must first convince them that it's worth reading. This begins with a compelling headline that grabs your target's attention.

Put yourself in the shoes of the journalists seeing a press release headline come across their screen. Is this something that you would want to read? Does it resonate with your readers? And at all costs, avoid writing a headline that comes off as clickbait. It's one of the fastest ways to find yourself in a journalist's spam folder...permanently.

When crafting a headline, think about keywords that will positively or negatively impact the chances of a journalist reading that press release. Based on data gathered by Cision, words like "announce", "launch", and "expand" are among the most common words used in headlines, however, their effectiveness when it comes to page views is average at best. On the flip side, "show", "rolls out", "allow", and "reveal" are underutilized keywords but tend to generate higher-than-average page views.

Digging a bit deeper, headlines between 75 and 100 characters tend to generate the most page views. Cision recommends that the most important keyword info is included in the first 55 to 70 characters, as this is the cutoff area for most search engines and email inboxes.

Multimedia Is a Must

Just as important as crafting a well-thought-out headline is the inclusion of multimedia, including videos, images or infographics.

Erin Payton, Integrated Marketing Manager for Distribution at Cision, says that "According to Cision's recent State of the Media survey, the majority of journalists used multimedia assets in their published articles in the last year. Twenty-two percent of journalists stated they wanted comms professionals to use multimedia assets in their press releases, undoubtedly making their jobs easier."

According to Cision's most recent State of the Press Release report, including just one image in a press release doubles the levels of engagement compared to press releases that are text-only. Press releases with a video tripled levels of engagement, while press releases with multiple images were six times as likely to generate engagement. Grab your target's attention by embedding your multimedia within the body of your press release and add a link at the bottom where they can easily access and download copies for use in their story.

Simply put, journalists want you to include multimedia in your press releases. The more images or videos, the better.

Add Authority to Your Quote

Finally, it's imperative that communicators add authority to key quotes by ensuring that they are coming from a credible source. For journalists, the individual attributed is just as important as what is said. So, who are the types of individuals journalists consider credible when doing a story?

According to the Muck Rack 2024 State of Journalism report, 82% of journalists surveyed said subject matter experts are the most credible sources of info, followed by researchers (77%) and CEOs (46%).

On the flip side, avoid trying to create credibility by quoting someone who does not have the credentials associated with a position of authority. Muck Rack found that self-appointed subject matter experts, bloggers, and social media influencers were the least credible sources of information when doing a story.

There is no magic formula for creating a successful press release. However, focusing on these three key elements will increase your odds of grabbing the attention of journalists and generating the earned media you're looking for.

Matt Petteruto is principal of MP Communications.