10 Steps to Creating an Outstanding Press Release

Your company is amazing. You know it. Your employees know it. And you want everyone else to know it. So, let’s write a press release!

Well, maybe not.

Press releases really are a great way to get your company noticed if they are written and presented to media in the right way. They are typically used for product launches, new research findings, emergency announcements, new hires or promotions, award announcements, events, fundraising or other needs-related news.

Here’s how to tell if your press release is ready for the media, your target audience and your community.

Step 1: See if your topic meets the Big Three criteria for a good press release:

  1. Is it newsworthy? How will your community be impacted by this news?
  2. Is it timely? Is it recent, happening now or in the near future?
  3. Is it relevant? How does it relate to your audience or community? Will they see themselves in your story?

If you meet all three of these criteria, you are ready for step two:

Step 2: Define your objective

Decide what you are trying to achieve, or what your desired outcome is. Your press release will look different depending on your objectives.

Let’s say your non-profit received a nice grant. Ask yourself questions like:

  • Who are trying to reach?
  • Why should they care?
  • What do you want to happen as a result of publishing this story?

Step 3: Write for your target audience

Let’s go back to that grant you just received. Are you simply announcing the grant? Why? Perhaps you want to thank your benefactor. That’s a great idea – they might want to donate to you again, or they might have requirements attached to the grant that say you have to issue a press release. You might also appeal to other grantors to consider giving your organization funds as well.

But is that enough to meet all of the above requirements?

Unfortunately, not quite.

Yes, receiving a grant is great and deserves some attention, but why would media publish your press release? Is there a story? Now, we’re ready for Step 4.

Step 4: Tell a compelling story

Now you get to go back to the Big Three listed in Step 1. Make it relevant and newsworthy to your community. Maybe this grant will feed 700 children in need for six months, or provide supplies for 413 animals during the pandemic (see? There’s the timeliness part). It must matter to the people who will read your story.

Also – consider what’s going on in the world. Make a compelling emotional and social connection with your audience. Does your story come off as tone-deaf or does it fill a void or give voice to those who can’t speak for themselves?

Step 5: Write in AP Style.

This is where it gets a little sticky. AP Style follows the guidelines from the Associated Press Stylebook and is the preferred style for journalists.

Originally developed for print media when space was limited and mistakes were costly, AP Style makes some weird style choices in order to save space, like doing away with the Oxford Comma, which makes English majors cringe. But that’s another story.

The best way to learn about AP Style is to subscribe to the online version of the stylebook. While writing for journalism is its own career path, the online style guide offers a pretty good tool for novices.

If you want media to run your story, AP Style is the way to go. Editors receive hundreds of story ideas, pitches and press releases a day. If they don’t have to edit your copy into AP Style, you have a leg up on probably at least half of your competition.

Step 6: Write the best headline of your life

Quick – pop quiz! What is the single most important part of your press release? Yes! The headline.

Generally, you have two seconds to get someone’s attention. If you don’t get it in two seconds, they’re scrolling on. Use powerful, emotive words and make your readers see themselves in your headline. Spend some time on it – it’s important.

Step 7: Proofread

This is a big deal. Nobody wants to put out a story with typos. Nobody wants to edit a story with typos. And the grammar police will comment all over your story. Don’t believe us? Check out news outlets on Facebook. Grammar vultures are just waiting to pounce.

Step 8: Include a photo. Better yet, include a photo and a video link

Press releases with photos are picked up at a much higher rate than press releases without photos. Press releases with video are picked up even more. Press releases with photos and videos – well, I think you get the picture. Write a caption that covers the who, what, when, where and why of your story, since many people just look at the pictures.

Step 9: Distribute your press release

You can send your press release a couple of ways:

  1. Syndicated service or newswire allows you to send to literally thousands of news agencies, networks and publishers instantly. The downside is they are costly and impersonal. For even more money, you can buy into a list-building service and search for journalists, publications and influencers.
  2. Individually – this allows for personalization to the person or agency you’re sending to. It takes time to research who is covering this kind of story, but your press release may be better received.

Step 10: Track your media hits!

You’re a media rock star and your story has hit the news! Set up Google alerts for your company, if you haven’t already, and for keywords in your story. Pat yourself on the back and revel in your fame.