Writing press releases is a crucial step in event and business marketing, yet many event planners dread the thought of writing one. They don't know where to start, they don't know how to get it in front of journalists, and they are simply afraid of writing it.
A press release is a story that is sent out to mainstream media and online publications, with the intent to publicize an event with the goal of getting published.
Two things must be kept in mind when writing a press release. First, it has to suit the news writing format and appeal to the editor or reporter. Second, it has to include all the important information that is relevant to the event – date, time, venue and links to the website and registration site.
You can do certain things to give your press release a good chance of being published.
- Make it newsworthy. A press release should satisfy the requirements of a publication, which in turn, wants articles that will interest the reader. Your press release has to be of a publishable quality.
- Find a good angle. Perhaps your event is going to include a widely known speaker or a speaker who is very famous with your target market. That will be the angle of your story. For example, “Dana Thomas will be in Vermont next week.”
- Use subheads. A subhead beneath your headline will amplify the headline and is a great way to hook the reporter. For example: “Bestselling author will read a chapter of her new book at the Strand on Tuesday.”
- Do the 5W lead. A standard news story should tell the whole story in a nutshell by saying who, what, when, where and why. For example: “Bestselling author Dana Thomas will be at the Strand Theatre, Vermont, on Tuesday to launch her new book, Fabulous.”
- The body. At this point, you want to back up your lead. This can be done by adding quotes, quoting your client, and even adding an extra quote from an authority. For example, “Thomas will read a chapter from her book, Fabulous, and take questions from the audience. She will also autograph copies of her book during the event. Mary Suzanne Thomas of Picador Publications said, “This is very exciting for all of us. Dana is eager to come to Vermont and meet her readers. Picador expects that her new book is going to be another bestseller.”
- Wrap up. The last paragraph should wrap up your story and include information about your client and what they do. For example, “Picador Publications is a veteran book publisher that has, for decades, worked with some of the most popular authors in the country.”
One note: The example we have given above is entirely fictional, and is only intended to provide an example of how a press release should be written. Other things to bear in mind in press releases are:
- Read good newspapers regularly to get the feel of news writing.
- Some publicists add a pitch letter with the highlights of the story attached.
- Avoid bloated adjectives like “state of the art” and “breakthrough.”
- Only use “I” or “we” if it’s in a quote.
- Keep it short. Ideally one page, two pages maximum.
- Three #’s are placed at the end of the press release, centered, after the last sentence.
- The press release can be sent by snail mail, email or fax, and can also be included in a press kit.
- Learn the basics of AP style to make the journalist's job easier.
To help you get started, if you haven't, download our free press release template.