How To Write a Press Release for Any Occasion
Ahh, the press release. One of the industry’s most iconic tools. For over 100 years, the press release has been used by public relations professionals to provide accurate, from-the-source, noteworthy information to the media and public. While the method of distribution has changed over the years, the bones of the humble press release have remained remarkably consistent.
A brief recap of the press release
For the uninitiated, the textbook definition of a press release (see also news release, media release, press statement) is a written statement about a matter of public interest which is given to the press by an organization concerned with the matter.
Ironically, the broad nature of this definition can sometimes lead to confusion. It should be noted that not all press releases are written statements—video press releases exist as well. To expand the textbook definition a bit, a press release is also:
- An official statement prepared by an organization and sent to the media with the goal of convincing journalists to publish a story based on the information in the release.
- A message meant to be shared widely with stakeholders and the public.
Why has this PR tool withstood the test of time? Because press releases continue to give PR practitioners the opportunity to:
- Tell the story their way
- Present the facts
- Distribute news quickly and cost-effectively
- Secure media coverage and publicity
- Expose the brand and message to a wider audience
All using one piece of content.
So how does it work?
The press release lifecycle
For a press release to do its job, it will typically go through the following stages:
Fairly self-explanatory, writing the press release is step 1. Download our Anatomy of a Press Release Guide and Template to learn exactly how to write an amazing press release. Inside the free guide you’ll find:
- Detailed breakdown of press release components
- Basic press release layout
- Tips and tricks on writing an effective press release
- A press release template worksheet—simply plug your information into this pre-formatted, customizable template and voila!
Once the press release is written, it needs to be distributed. This can be done in multiple ways.
1) Targeted media pitches
- Send the press release to targeted journalists along with a personalized pitch to encourage them to read the release and turn the information into a published news story. This can be done by researching contacts individually, or with the help of a media database.
2) Wire services
- Newswire services distribute their clients’ press releases to a large, broad network of journalists. Similar to a job board, the wire provides a platform where press releases can be posted and then found by any journalist checking the wire that day for a story idea.
3) Social media and owned channels
- Organizations will often also post their press releases on social media channels like Twitter and Facebook and send them to their internal distribution lists (i.e. email newsletters).
Depending on your goals, you can use any combination of these distribution methods. Whatever you choose, once your release is out there, it’ll be up to you to do any necessary follow-up with the media. Ideally, you’ll be busy responding to journalist requests, or eagerly engaging in some media monitoring to track your coverage!
Once the press release is distributed, it is usually given a permanent place to “live” online where it can be accessed in the future by journalists, stakeholders, or anybody else looking for information. Many organizations have a “Media” or “News” section of their website where all their releases are posted. If a company wants to support their distribution and SEO efforts, or they don’t have the resources to post to their own website, they may also decide to post their release to an external newsroom.
Types of press releases
Now that we’ve covered the basic logistics of a press release, you may be wondering, “when should I write and share a press release?”
Organizations can use press releases to communicate all kinds of messages, but generally, they’ll fall into one of several categories. Browse through this section to get a feel for some of the most common press releases, along with specific examples to get familiar with the content and style of each. Then, download our Anatomy of a Press Release Guide and Template to create your own.
This is anything the organization wants (or needs) to formally announce to the public. Whether it’s news that will boost their brand reputation, provide practical information to stakeholders, or introduce the public to a new initiative, these press releases provide all the basic information needed to help journalists break the story and keep organizations transparent.
Government of Canada introduces further restrictions on international travel – Government of Canada, 2021
Pfizer and BioNTech announce vaccine candidate – Pfizer, 2020
When a crisis strikes, it’s important to be open, honest, and proactive. Organizations can use press releases as part of a crisis management strategy to clarify the facts, apologize, and/or emphasize the actions they have taken.
Many organizations will also issue a statement to support these efforts. A statement is not the same thing as a press release. Statements are reactionary, immediate, and do not follow a particular format. Think of a quick, “We know this happened, we are sorry, we are working on it” from a company’s CEO. Many companies will use a two-pronged approach by issuing a statement to apologize and address the situation immediately, followed by a press release to focus entirely on how the company is moving forward.
Peloton refutes consumer product safety commission claims – Peloton, 2021
An organization has been hard at work and is excited to share its efforts. Particularly common in the tech and auto industry to announce new gadgets and models, press releases used to announce a new product are used across industries for all kinds of new offerings.
Agility PR Solutions unveils first-ever fully integrated targeting and monitoring solution for podcasts – Agility PR Solutions, 2021
A first for small cars – Volkswagen, 2021
While most journalists receive the heads-up about events from media advisories (sent prior to an event as a sort of invitation, with only the most basic details), press releases are also used to provide event highlights to journalists who may not be able to attend, and to provide supporting info to those who do. Event press releases can be released before, after, or the day-of an event.
Xbox & Bethesda games showcase – Xbox, 2021
Partnerships are a popular way for organizations to boost their corporate social responsibility (CSR), create unique offerings, and generate mutually beneficial buzz for all the parties involved. Known as joint press releases, organizations will work together to create a single press release, including information and branding from all participating groups.
Ben & Jerry’s and Colin Kaepernick unite to change the whirled – Ben & Jerry’s, Colin Kaepernick, Know Your Rights Camp, 2020
Actor Maisie Williams named first WWF Global Ambassador for Climate and Nature – World Wildlife Fund, Maisie Williams, 2021
Corporate Social Responsibility
Along similar lines to publicizing partnerships, organizations are often eager to formally announce charitable giving or other CSR initiatives. These press releases aim to have stories published that will garner good will and demonstrate CSR.
US$1 million donated to support COVID-19 relief in India – The LEGO Group, 2021
Award recognition and accolades give organizations an excuse to flaunt their stuff and share their successes with the world. Whether they are trying to attract talent, customers, or simply bolster their brand and reputation, organizations will often use a press release to help spread the good news.
Announcing the 2021 Bulldog PR Award Winners – Agility PR Solutions, 2021 (Bulldog Reporter)
Whether they’re released by research institutions like universities and research foundations or brands who simply got curious and took it upon themselves to look into things, releasing interesting research is a great way to cultivate brand interest, drive action, and position an organization as a thought leader.
Poor work-life balance may have negative health effects – BMC Public Health, 2020
When companies make an important senior management change, they’ll often leverage their new hires as a marketing tool. An organization’s senior management is often tied closely with its brand, and new blood or even a shakeup, can create opportunities for publicity, brand awareness, reaching new audiences, and more.
To make a formal declaration and to help customers and stakeholders make the transition, organizations will often issue a press release when they are undergoing a visual rebranding. This allows them to prepare audiences and let them know what to look for moving forward.
The Atlantic makes a new Mark – The Atlantic, 2019
Burger King evolves visual brand identity – Burger King, 2021
Go forth and distribute your press release!
And there you have it! Along with our Anatomy of a Press Release Guide and Template, you should have everything you need to write your own press release and start chasing some well-deserved publicity.
Need some more help? Agility PR Solutions offers many tools and services to help you make the most of your press release including a media database to tailor pitches and do specific outreach, a newsroom to help boost your SEO efforts and give your release a place to live, a built-in newswire service for broader distribution, and media monitoring solutions for you to track your coverage. Let us show you!
Anatomy of a Press Release
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