What is a press release?

February 2, 2022

If you're starting out with your own PR, you might have heard people talking about sending out a press release to get your organisation in front of relevant journalists. Depending how familiar you are with PR, you might also be wondering what a press release is and why it might be useful to you. In today's blog post, we'll cover a quick overview of what a press release is, what to include and other considerations.

What is a press release?

A press release is a document that a company uses to communicate a story or piece of news with relevant media targets. Most journalists receive a LOT of emails and press releases from various companies and organisations (think hundreds each DAY). So, you want to make sure yours grabs the journalist's attention and makes them want to cover your story. The headline and first paragraph should draw them in with your most important details and make them want to find out more. Having read the full release, the journalist should understand what your story is and know whether it's suitable for them. They can then use this information as the basis of their story. If they're interested, some journalists might be run the story without getting in touch with you (or, sometimes, even letting you know!). Others might need further information or want to set up an interview.

Can you give an example?

Of course! For example, Melissa helped the Madagascar Whale Shark Project (MWSP) draft a press release on their study into the value of whale shark tourism in Nosy Be. Their new study had some fascinating findings but, at 16 pages long, they needed a concise way of sharing the most pertinent points with the press. That's where Mel came in. She digested the key points of the study and developed a release that communicated everything they wanted journalists to know.

The MWSP team distributed this release to their media contacts which resulted in some great press coverage - including this piece in Forbes! As you can see, the journalist has been able to use key details from the release to write her own article about the new study. In this instance, they could share their one release with several different outlets to generate more than one piece of coverage. Other titles including Diver, DIVE, Scubaverse and SEVENSEAS all covered the story too.

What should I include in a press release?

Your press release should outline the key details of your story clearly and concisely. It should grab the journalist’s attention and make them want to read on. In particular, the headline is really important. If your headline isn't impactful and intriguing, some journalists might not even read the first paragraph!

Within your release, remember to include the who, what, when, where, why and how of your story and (if relevant) a short quote from your company spokesperson. The most important information should come first. This isn't like an article that might try to build up anticipation with a big reveal at the end: if you don't spill the beans about why this is important right away, the journalist may well not get to the end to find out.

Being concise is important. Keep to the point and don’t waffle. Ideally, your release should be around one page and not longer than two. Most journalists don't have time to read through lots of extra fluff! If you have a call to action, include brief details and a URL at the end. This might be the link to a study, a new product or a campaign people can get involved with.

And don't forget your contact details in the 'notes to editors' section at the end of the release so journalists can get in touch if they have any questions. Some PR professionals (especially in the United States) prefer to put their contact details right at the top of the release so there's no chance they might miss them.

What else do I need to think about?

So, you've got your release ready? Great! But don't forget that's not all. There are a few supporting assets you might need to go alongside your story. Think about whether you also need to prepare:

  • A good media list of contacts you want to target with your story
  • High quality, high resolution photos
  • High quality video footage (this might be an edited clip or ‘B-roll’ footage)
  • Supporting infographics, graphs or visuals
  • And a spokesperson who is available to talk to the media if you receive any interview requests

How can Melissa help?

Hopefully you found this useful and have a better idea what a press release is and when to use one. If you're thinking about drafting a release but aren't sure where to start, there are a few ways Melissa can help:

  • If this was useful but you have questions about your specific situation, Melissa's PR Power Hour might be useful for you. In these bespoke sessions, Melissa will help you address whatever PR issue you're facing so you can feel confident about your own PR efforts.
  • For those who want to write their own release but need a bit of guidance, check out Melissa's press release template. This is available on her resources page
  • Or you might want an expert to take away all the hassle and just do it for you. If that's the case, consider hiring Melissa to draft your release for you

Thanks and good luck with your media outreach!

Ready to chat?

Hello!

Great to hear you're interested in working together - I'm always keen to hear about exciting new stories from marine conservationists, potential commissions from editors and suitable briefs from prospective clients.

So, let's chat. You can send me an email (I aim to respond within three working days, usually sooner) or book a call below. I look forward to hearing from you.

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