What is a Press Release?

A well-written press release can gain free advertising for your business in magazines and newspapers and on Web sites. A press release that is poorly written, though? It will do nothing but waste the time of whoever wrote it.

A press release is a brief — usually one page — written communication from an individual, business or organization to members of the news media. The authors of press releases usually want to promote something, whether it be a company’s new hire or promotion, the launch of a new product or the beginning of a charitable campaign. A press release is one way for companies or organizations to share their message directly with the media. Press releases usually begin or end with the contact information of a person whom media members are supposed to call if they have questions or want to follow up on the release.

The goal of a press release is a simple one: You want it to help promote your business without you having to spend advertising dollars to achieve this. This can happen in several ways: A newspaper might run your press release advertising your business in its entirety. A Web site might rewrite your release, posting it with a link to your company’s own Web home. A magazine reporter might read your press release and call you for an interview as part of a larger trends story in which you and several other business owners are quoted.

If you’re truly fortunate, a writer might even call to turn your press release into a full feature story on your business.

But none of this can happen if you don’t first craft a press release that members of the media don’t instantly toss in the garbage.

Here’s the unfortunate truth about today’s publishing business: Editors and writers are busy. Newspapers and magazines are woefully understaffed today. This means that media members will usually decide in seconds whether to read your entire press release or relegate it to the recycling bin. The first few sentences of your release, then, are key to making sure that it brings your business the media coverage you want.

Again, the fact that editors and writers are busy means that your press release should spell out exactly what you’re trying to promote in the first paragraph. Don’t be clever. Just tell editors why they should either print your press release or call you for an interview.

If your independent hardware store recently opened a new location, don’t start your release extolling the pioneer spirit of your store’s founders. Instead, write something like this: “Local hardware store Mac’s Tools opened its third location in Middleton in early February.” In the following sentences give the new location’s address and hours, what services and products it offers and the name of the new shop’s manager.

If your real estate brokerage just hired a new managing broker, start your release by saying exactly that: “Real estate firm Sell Homes now promoted Sam Sellser to managing broker of the company’s Centerville office.” Go on to list your new managing broker’s career achievements and experience. You might include an inspiring quote from your new broker and another comment from a company executive about why the new hire is the right fit.

Make sure, too, to include a contact person, and that person’s phone number and e-mail address, at the top of your release. Editors who have questions can then contact you. If editors don’t see this contact information clearly listed, the odds are good they’ll simply pitch your release if they have questions.

Never make your release more than one page. Editors won’t read past the first page, anyway. Even in the best of times for the news industry, editors preferred economical writing. Today, when editors are juggling more jobs than ever, they demand writing that is concise and to the point.

You might be a skilled writer. You might yearn to bring more life to your press releases with clever opening paragraphs and long meditations on the state of the nation’s economy, the importance of small business owners and the power of stellar customer service. Resist this temptation when writing press releases.

The press release rule is an easy one to remember: Short and sweet will increase the odds that your release will bring your business the free publicity you seek.

If writing a press release is a job that you don’t feel up to tackling, contact the editors at Scripted. We have plenty of experienced writers who can craft winning press releases for your business.