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.
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.