Are press releases still a thing? Ask any PR pro and they’ll tell you “yes, they are.” While companies don't rely as much on traditional news media to spread information these days, the combination of dropping a press release and posting on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter offers boundless coverage for news you want to share.
The lines between public relations and marketing have blurred — especially where social media are concerned. Public relations supports and represents the brand’s overall vision, goals, and structure. On the other hand, social media marketing consists of using social media channels to deliver PR messages directly to your audience. Social media marketing allows you to directly connect with your audience with other types of messaging as well, such as that related to sales or promotions. Which approach or combination of approaches you choose depends on the message content and your goals (informational vs. promotional) in distributing it.
So when do you actually need to send a press release? A new product launch. Moving your headquarters. A big-name industry speaker is coming to visit. Things happen within your company, and sometimes you need to share that information publicly. That's when you need to know how to draft a press release.
Companies used to send press releases (aka news releases) to traditional media outlets to make announcements. The idea was to announce news simultaneously, generating interest and media coverage. Calling sources at each news outlet and repeating the same information was simply not an efficient use of time.
Press releases are an important part of your public relations strategy, especially as an ecommerce store owner.
When to Deploy a Press Release
You don't just decide to send a press release because it's a Tuesday or because you haven't sent one in a while. A press release is a strategic piece of marketing content, and you should treat it as such. It is best if you have a clearly defined reason for sending a press release. That reason typically revolves around news value. Here are some examples:
- Relevance — think about your audience and how the information applies to them. Do they want or need to know the information? Is it useful to them in their day-to-day lives? If so, it is relevant and worthy of a press release.
- Interest — information must be interesting to the audience, or they’ll ignore it. What affects their lives? If it's a change in an internal process, they're probably not interested. If it's a change in an internal process that will alter the way you do business with them, they care.
- Impact — How many people are affected, and how seriously? The greater the impact, the more likely the information is to receive wide-scale interest.
- Conflict — Is there an issue? When something arises, communicate first with transparency and control the message.
- Prominence — People care about the lives of prominent people. If you have a big-name speaker coming to visit, your audience probably wants to know and informing them gives your company clout. Then they'll also want to know what that big-name visitor said while they were there. That's an opportunity for two press releases!
Remember that a press release should be about a single event or happening. You should write your press release clearly so the average person (not an industry insider) can understand it. And it should always have news value.
How to Draft a Press Release
Like any type of content, press releases start with the most important information and work their way to the least important information.
There are five parts to a press release:
- Summary News Lead — the main subject of the release. If the audience reads no further than these sentences, they should understand the topic of the press release.
- Benefit Statement — tells the reader why the lead is relevant or important to them. The benefit statement puts the lead in context. Together, they answer the who, what, when, where, and why.
- Body — information that is important, but not worthy of the first two paragraphs. The body of the release includes interesting facts/details related to the announcement and quotes from company leaders.
- Action Statement — tells the reader what to do next. It's the call to action. Think who to call for more information or a website to visit to sign up for something.
- Boilerplate — a final paragraph that gives a short overview of your company’s mission and history. You'll write this one time and share it at the end of all of your releases.
6 Steps: How to Draft a Press Release
All of the parts of a press release come together in six easy steps.
- Determine the News Peg What news value does your release topic fulfill? Identifying this information helps you focus your release.
- Write the Headline. The headline is a single sentence summarizing your press release and its purpose. The headline is the first thing readers see, and it should make them want to read your release. The headline should be direct, simple, and contain an action verb. Write in subject-verb-object format for the simplest, most active headline construction.
- Write the Lead and Benefit Statement. These two pieces of the release together shouldn't be more than a couple of paragraphs. Draw the reader in with the lead, ensure both parts of the release address the who, what, when, where, and why of your announcement.
- Write the Body. This is where you put the remainder of the information you need to tell the audience, including quotes from company leaders. Work from most important to least important and keep the information brief. Your press release should be less than two printed, double-spaced pages. One page really is best.
- Add a Call to Action. Never end a press release without a call to action. What do you want the reader to do when they finish the release? Include a contact name and number for questions. Also, websites for more information are helpful.
- Tack on the Boilerplate. End your press release with who your company is and what they stand for. Remember that you can write this information once and copy and paste it on all of your releases.
Press Release or Social Media Promotion?
You should promote your company every time it’s possible. If you have a good reason from a public relations perspective to send a press release, do it. Use social media channels instead when it makes sense for promotion.
Happenings that Merit a Press Release
- Product Launches or Changes. You want to make sure your audience knows about a new product and why they should consider it. Include the product's specs, pricing, availability, and why it's being offered. Your audience also wants to know when their favorite products change. Include what the change is, why it's happening, when it's happening, and how it will benefit them.
- Mergers and Acquisitions. Big organizational changes are worthy of a press release because they inform stakeholders of information important to them. Include information about the organizations involved, why the merger or acquisition is happening, outlines of any known changes as a result, and quotes from the leadership teams of the organizations involved.
- Awards and Honors.If you don't brag about your company, who will? Make sure your company and your employees get credit for winning awards and honors. Include information about the company, the award received, and when the honor was or will be given.
- Newsjacking. Tie in with other news of the day that's related to your company. Be sure the news happening is actually related to your company or industry. Also, this is best done when the news is positive or when your product/service solves a problem.
- Executive Promotions/Hiring. Your audience wants to know if you make changes in important company positions. Include information about who was in the position, where they went, who the new individual is, and where they came from. Headshots of the people involved also are helpful so the reader can connect faces with names.
- New Partnerships. Your audience wants to know about new business relationships that affect the way your company works for them. Include information about each company, why you partnered, and any changes readers can expect as a result.
- Tell Your Side. Sometimes you need to tell your side of a controversy or make your audience aware of a happening within your company. Be proactive and transparent in sharing this information. Be sure to tell them what happened, how it happened, who was impacted, and your plans for the immediate future. Apologize if necessary.
Promotions and Messaging Better Suited for Social Media Promotion:
- Hosting Events. Announce events if you want coverage of them and/or if your audience is invited to attend. Announce the happening before, telling who should attend, when and where it will be hosted, how much it will cost to attend, and how to register, if necessary. After the event, post again to tell the audience the outcomes of the event. Think how many people attended, how much money was raised, etc. Don't miss this important opportunity to promote your organization's success.
- Event Attendance or Participation. Use social to promote big events which employees are hosting or attending. Include information about the event, who is attending, how they are chosen, and what they will teach or learn. Perhaps more importantly, what will your customers gain from this opportunity for your employees?
- Grand Openings. Announce a new headquarters or a new branch. Include the time, date, and place of the grand opening celebration, who is invited, what will happen there, and the reason for the new location.
- Anniversaries. Celebrate a milestone anniversary for your organization. Include a brief history of your organization, from the beginning to now. If there will be an anniversary celebration, include the time, date and place, who is invited, and what will happen there.
Key Takeaways: How to Draft a Press Release
Press releases are a great opportunity to promote your organization and develop a better relationship with your audience through content marketing.
The most important things to remember are to always have a clearly defined reason to send a release (based on news value) and make sure each release has all of the information the reader needs to take action. Now it's time to jump in and write. Trust us, you'll get better at it with every release.