How to Write a Press Release – Guidelines for formats, and placing appropriate content (1999)

03 September

How to Write a Press Release - by Christopher SimmonsIntroduction
One of the most important aspects to sending a press release to the media is proper formatting. There are several accepted layouts which are used in the PR field. Some of them will be discussed here, and a sample “short” release is shown below.

The common optimum length for a press release is 500-800 words, with 800 words being the optimum maximum target length. The sample release below is about 650 words in length, and could have been shorter. In some cases a long release may be required. An example might be a merger anouncement for high-tech companies which need to describe both a set of products and company information. (See example 800+ words long release on second page.)

For your information:
This article originally appeared on MindsetNetwire.com in early 1999 and Send2Press.com in 2000 (verifiable via the Wayback Machine – Archive.org). It has also appeared on various Websites by permission, including Jackstreet.com, and has been frequently copied/re-written without permission by various how-to Websites. It is Copr. © 1999, 2003, and 2012 by Christopher Laird Simmons, all rights reserved.

Write for brevity when possible and make every word count. Be matter of fact but also attempt to engage the reader with a story than draws the interest of the person who might read it. Some media outlets receive 30,000 press releases per week, so your “hook” is very important. The release should be written to reflect the actual news announcement in specifics which are clearly drawn. Vague or projected content will not interest the receiving media targets. Use good grammar, and strong action words like “will” versus “may” and “does” versus “might.”

Getting Started
The first line of a press release should be all capital letters, and will sometimes be “PRESS RELEASE” but more commonly should be “FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE.” We recommend the latter.

There are two methods for the layout of contact information, sometimes at the top of the release, and sometimes at bottom. If you choose to place the information at top, it should be below “FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE” and before the body of the release. If you choose to place the contact information at bottom, it should be after the body of the release. The contact information should be the name of the PR firm (if any), contact person by name, then phone and fax number, then e-mail address. Each item should be on one line by itself.

Although it has become common practice to put contact information at top, a brief survey of 100 journalists conducted by Mindset discovered that working writers preferred to see the “meat” of the release (the headline announcement) first, with contact info at bottom.

Next, the market segment identifier is used to identify to whom your press release will be of interest. This can be in the form of listing a specific market such as “Business/E-Commerce/Fashion” or it can be directed at editors in the form of “Business Editors/High-Tech Writers.” Each method is correct, with one stating a market and the other identifying which editor at a general interest publication the release should be directed to. Generally, only one of the forms is used, however you can mix the approaches as necessary. Although not every PR firm uses an identifier line, we’ve found that it helps identify the relevance of the announcement to the receiving party, and may help it be read/used. It is recommended.

Depending on the strength of your headline you may wish to place the headline first, then the identifier. If your headline is weaker, you may wish to place the identifier first. See both of my press release examples below and on the next page.

Below the “FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE” and the contact information (if you choose to place contact information at top) you must put your headline information. This should be the most carefully written aspect of your release, and must be both attention getting and imply a genuine newsworthy event. It doesn’t need to be a cure for cancer, but must clearly state what you intend to describe in the body of your release. Did your company merge with another? Did your company launch a new product line? Report record earnings? Spell it out. It needs to be compelling enough for the editor who may read it to not dismiss the entire release and then immediately “round file” it in the trash. The better your headline, the better your results. As a rule, your headline should be 30 words or less.

A Good Body
Next, we get to the body of the release. This is the story you want to tell and should be everything a potential editor/writer at a media outlet needs to know to decide to consider your story and print elements from it as-is, or perhaps contact you directly for some additional back-story.

The first sentence is important because it follows a specific format for the PR/media industry and comes from the days when teletype machines sent news via “wire” to daily newspapers. First, you need to state where your company is located by city and state. This is important because certain regional editors will not be able to use your release unless it’s related to their region. Second, you must provide a date; and the date must be the actual date you send the release. Modern daily news outlets (TV, cable, radio, newspapers) will not print or review “stale” news, so this lets them know that your release is intended for today. While not as important to periodical/magazine editors, it’s a requirement. Sandwiched between the city and state, in all capital letters, and your release date, will be the media delivery service (in our case Mindset Netwire; now called Send2Press Newswire) printed all caps in parenthesis.

Thus, the first line of your release body might read:
LOS ANGELES, Calif., Jan., 1, 2000 (MINDSET NETWIRE) –

Immediately following the city, state, outlet, and date, should be the name of your company, a public stock symbol in parenthesis (if the company is public), and then your announcement. This first paragraph is essentially the same information found in your headline, described earlier, but is written in the moment. Use terms like “our company today launched blah blah which will provide enhanced functionality to mainstream companies in the Western United States.”

Other paragraphs within the release should desribe what your new product, agreement, or product actually does. At least one paragraph must describe the general feature/benefit of what you are announcing beyond the headline and first paragraph. The next paragraph(s) should be quotations from a company representative or visionary who describes what he/she feels the product/service adds to the target market. This brings a human feel to the announcement, and puts a face on the story. It also provides a quotation from someone at the company that can be used in a news item. If the announcement is a partnership or merger, it is important to get quotes from someone at each company.

The Final Touches
The final paragraph(s) should describe the company. This is the “about the company” paragraph, and if there is more than one company mentioned in the release, each should have its own paragraph. Explain the history, year founded, market approach, and the like. Repeat the public stock symbol if applicable (don’t litter your release with stock symbols, however).

For modern internet-enabled companies, a last line by itself should state: “Company website: www.yourdomain.com” in the event the writer/editor chooses to pursue more information about your company without contacting you directly. Below this, you may also want to state that a product photo is available online and provide the URL.

A common maximum length for the entire release is 400-600 words. This ensures you make each word, sentence and paragraph count versus rambling on as you might in a letter to someone.

If the company or companies discussed in the release are publicly traded (NASDAQ, bulletin board, etc.), you will want to include your trading symbol in both the first descriptive paragraph as well as the specific paragraph describing your company (or companies). You will also want to include a disclaimer paragraph about “forward looking statements” (see example long release on next page).

With the body of the release done, you would now place your contact information at the bottom (unless you place it up top), and then you need to close the release with three hash marks, like so “# # #”. This indicates the end of the release.

Check and Review
If you’ve used a word processor, you should definitely use any spell-checking utilities on your release to find common spelling mistakes and/or typos. You should print your release out on a printer and read it in paper form to see how it reads, to ensure that it’s clear and to the point. You may also wish to read it out loud to yourself and listen for the flow and whether it sounds interesting. Are you actually announcing something? If it just sounds like a bunch of nonsense, go back and edit it until it sounds like you’re telling somebody an interesting story.

If you intend to submit your release through a PR service like Mindset™ Netwire’s Send2Press™ distribution, you should first open it in a text-only software application like NotePad (on the PC), or SimpleText (on the Mac). The reason to check the release in a regular text-editor is because certain word processing applications use special characters which do not translate to standard ASCII format. An example might be a long dash, bullet, or quotation marks. By viewing your release in a normal text editor, you can confirm that none of the characters in your release have changed to garbage characters.

By following the guidelines in this article, you should be able to compose and submit a proper release which fits the criteria which editors look for. This will ensure your best chance of getting the free publicity which only the print and electronic media services can provide.

Sample Press Releases
You should review the sample press release provided below to see a visual example of a standard release. This is a shorter release, for a fairly simple announcement. (Also see the long release example follows next section.)

[sample release; this was an actual company release; however note that in modern PR headlines are no longer done ALL CAPS, but Initial Capped.]

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Of Interest to: Arts/Entertainment Editors
Regional Media Editors (California/Los Angeles/Santa Monica)

THE CANDLE CONNECTION LAUNCHES ONLINE STORE FOR POPULAR GIFTS CREATED BY ‘ARTIST TO THE STARS’ DINA LASKY, INCLUDING HER WORLD FAMOUS HURRICANE CANDLES

SANTA MONICA, Calif., Jan. 12, 2000 (MINDSET NETWIRE) — The Candle Connection, a supplier of specialty gift items to celebrities and Hollywood Studios, today announced the formal launch of a new online shopping site to offer the works of artist Dina Lasky including her world famous hurricane candles.

This new online shopping site will be a new outlet for Ms. Lasky’s popular hurricane candles and gifts currently offered through a company store in Santa Monica, CA., and through hundreds of premium gift shops throughout the world. It will allow anyone, anywhere to purchase her work 24-hours a day, 365-days a year. First time customers will receive a 10% discount on their purchase for a limited time.

Created exclusively for The Candle Connection, Ms. Lasky’s hand-made candle creations, containing hand-picked seashells, or dried flowers, with speciality scents and colors, have been featured in numerous national magazines including InStyle. Her candles have been given as gifts by friends of singers Jewel, and Perry Ferrell (of band Jane’s Addiction). Helen Hunt received a basket of Candle Connection gifts upon winning the Academy Award(R) in 1998. Ms. Lasky’s hurricane candles were selected to help decorate a party hosted by actor Gary Oldman. Pro volleyball player Singin Smith has purchased many of Ms. Lasky’s hurricane candles to give as gifts.

“I am excited about this new venue to offer my products to a wider audience,” said Dina Lasky. “The online world is growing so quickly that I found I could not ignore the opportunity any longer. Finally, people can actually see my products from anywhere, through photos and color samples, and order whenever they wish.”

The online shop uses proven, reliable, and secure e-commerce solutions from internet development and marketing veteran Mindset, of Long Beach, California, who designed the site as well as provided the commerce technology.

“We’re very excited for The Candle Connection,” said Christopher Simmons, Mindset president/ceo. “They have a truly unique product offering, not merely the same name brand items offered by a thousand other websites. We’ve found that this type of product offering is well received by online shoppers.”

About The Candle Connection

The Candle Connection(TM) was founded in 1995 to help keep up with the demand for artistic candlework being done locally by artist Dina Lasky. Within a couple of years, the small Santa Monica speciality gift shop was distributing product to premium gift shops around the world, providing gift baskets to local movie studios, and receiving tremendous repeat business from celebrities and their friends who had become familiar with Ms. Lasky’s work.

About Dina Lasky

An artist of many disciplines, Dina Lasky has traveled extensively in Europe during the early 1980s, studying design and cultural artwork. She graduated from broadcasting school and gained regional noteriety as “Dina Destiny”, producing her own popular rock and roll show. Today she owns two companies, and spends most of her time creating her popular hurricane candles for customers around the world.

About Mindset

Mindset(TM) was founded in 1987 as a marketing, design and multimedia company. In 1995 they began offering web services including e-commerce, content development, audio/video conversion and web hosting for small business. Mindset currently serves hundreds of companies in the United States. The Mindset(TM) website is located at www.mindsetcommunications.com

The Candle Connection’s new online store is located at: www.candleconnect.com.

High resolution digital photos available for print reproduction.

MEDIA ONLY CONTACT:
PR Representative
Mindset
Christopher Simmons, 1-555-555-5555
PR@mindsetcommunications.com

or
The Candle Connection
Dina Lasky, 1-555-555-5555
dina2000@candleconnect.com
www.candleconnect.com

# # #

Also see the long release example that follows.

(Editorial Note 2012: Mindset became Neotrope® in 2000 and has no relationship to any company with the name “Mindset” in it as of Jan. 1, 2000 onward.)

Example Long Press Release
The following is an entirely fictitious (made up) press release, created to show how a medium-long form release in the tech industry might look. Generally, a release of this length (800+ words) would likely cost more to send through any online PR service, and would likely have cost more to have written by any PR firm.

Also of note, it is typically more acceptable for established “brand name” companies to distribute longer releases, because the company name is already familiar to most targeted media outlets.

In my example below, the companies are public and therefore must include a forward looking disclaimer which is necessary because the stock for the company is publicly traded.

[sample release; text is completely fictitious]

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Magic Software and Wetwire Team to Deliver Industry-Leading Content Management Capability to Mojo-e-Business Customers

Companies Work Together to Integrate Wetwire Alien Management Tools with Magic Software’s Wand Developer

LOS ANGELES, Calif. and BROOKLYN, N.Y., Jan. 1, 2000 (MINDSET NEETWIRE) — Magic Software, Inc. (Nasdaq:MAGX), a leading provider of content development software for the enterprise Web, and Wetwire(R) Software, Inc. (Nasdaq:WETR), a leading provider of Enterprise Human Resource software, today announced a strategic alliance in which the two companies will work together to seamlessly integrate Wetwire Alien Management Tools and Magic Software’s Mojo-e-Business(TM).

This alliance will allow Magic Software to offer Wetwire’s advanced Web content management capabilities to Magic customers building e-business and HR solutions.

Magic Software’s Mojo-e-Business is designed to meet the diverse needs of e-business, putting business experts from operations, sales, marketing, and human resources in control of key business functions, while allowing IT professionals to focus on technical performance and security demands. Through its alliance with Wetwire, Magic Software will add the proven functionality of Alien Management, providing an advanced, robust content management system to this comprehensive e-business solution. Alien Management features, such as templating and workflow, will allow Mojo-e-Business customers on Earth and other solar bodies to be more productive and efficient, while features, such as versioning and rollbacks, will give customers a higher level of management and security. Both Magic Software and Wetwire are committed to an open holistic architecture, which provides forward compatibility for future best-of-breed technology.

“Our goal with Mojo-e-Business is to provide a solar-class solution that gives human resource experts direct control of the business processes in the e-business enterprise,” said David R. Clinton, senior vice president of channel marketing at Magic. “By aligning with Wetwire, we can add Alien Management content to our impressive list of Mojo-e-Business features, providing our customers with a higher level of control and responsiveness to changing planetary orbit conditions.”

Barbara B. Vocal, president of business development at Wetwire, added, “The proven orbital management functionality in Alien Management is a stellar complement to the Magic Mojo-e-Business suite. Wetwire is committed to working with Magic Software to provide a comprehensive solution to Mojo-e-Business customers.”

About Mojo-e-Business

Magic’s Mojo-e-Business product suite is an e-business solution that meets the exacting demands of the people responsible for e-business operations, sales, marketing, and human resources, while addressing the orbital technology mandate for excellence in a non-stop, high-performance platform to support mission-critical applications.

About Alien Management Tools

Wetwire’s flagship product, Alien Management Tools (AMT), was built specifically for the creation, production and management of large, complex orbital platforms. AMT provides planetary governments with an effective solution for moving business and employees to the Web. AMT’s browser-based user interface allows non-technical end users to become an active, integral part of the Web through nano-technology. AMT also offers unparalleled administrative control, system performance and scalability — it enables the central management of hundreds of thousands of alien lifeforms, maintaining high performance as the number of lifeforms increases.

About Magic Software, Inc.

Magic Software Inc. is a leading provider of Enterprise Interaction Management software. Companies deploying Internet Commerce applications like Oracle. Solar Power Corp., Planetary Excursions, and BigManonEarth, Inc. depend on Magic Software’s Suite frameworks to integrate management applications into nano-enabled environments, manage alien interactions, and exchange biodata with employees, partners, and customers. For more information about Magic Software, please call 800-MAGIC2000, visit http://www.magicx3k.com, or e-mail myblue@magicx3k.com.

About Wetwire Inc.

Wetwire, Inc. (Nasdaq:WETX) is a leading provider of content management software for the planetary Web. Its flagship product, AMT, controls the development, management and deployment of business-critical biotech Web sites. As the platform for planetary management, Wetwire enables electronic commerce, customer conversion via nonotech, supply knowledge management for Web developers and Fortune 10,000 companies. Alien Management Tools (AMT) is available for both the Sun Solaris and Microsoft Terra3000 operating systems. For more information on the company and its solutions, visit the Wetwire Web site at www.wetwire3k.com or e-mail nanotech@wetwire3k.com.

Certain statements in this press release constitute forward-looking statements as such term is defined in the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Forward-looking statements involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors which may cause Magic’s actual results, performance, or achievements or those of its alliance partners, customers, or industry to be materially different from the future results, performance or achievements expressed or implied by these forward-looking statements. Specifically, the Company’s beliefs with respect to the business opportunities presented by e-business and the Company’s ability to profitably market and deploy its Mojo-e-Business solution may prove to be inaccurate. In light of the significant uncertainties inherent in these forward-looking statements, the information in this press release should not be considered a representation by the Company or any other person that Magic’s objectives and plans will be achieved.

In addition, the market for Wetwire’s products is new and unproven.

CONTACT: Magic Software, Inc.
Joe Schmo, 555-555-1212
js@magicx3k.com
or
Wetwire, Inc.
Jolina Schmo, 555-555-1212
jsb@wetwire3k.com

# # #

# # #

Article Copr. © 1999, 2003, 2012 by Christopher Simmons — All Rights Reserved. This article originally appeared on the MindsetNetwire.com Website in early 1999 and later on Send2Press.com in 2000, and was updated in 2003 on the same site (may be stale by the time you are reading this; a newer-updated version may be found on this same site). All commercial and reprint rights reserved.

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