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In order to ensure the maximum effectiveness of your press releases, you’ll want to make sure that they conform to certain generally accepted formatting practices. By following the press release format guide below, you’ll increase the likelihood that your press releases will be picked up by journalists and media outlets and turned into stories about your company.
As a first step, you’ll want to alert whoever is reading the press release when the news is “officially” available. Often, companies will send out press releases a day or two in advance of an event, in order to give media outlets some advance time to prepare a story. In the top left corner, you’ll want to use either “FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE” (in all capital letters) or “HOLD FOR RELEASE UNTIL [DATE]” (where you would fill in the date when the news embargo has been lifted).
You’ll also want to pay a lot of attention to the headline and sub-headline. The headline needs to clearly communicate the story of your press release, and it must include the name of your company. The sub-headline can be longer, and can provide some additional facts and information that will attract the attention of a potential journalist.
Every press release will list the location (including city and state) and date of the story. The inclusion of the city and state information is important because many media outlets consider news on the basis of whether it is local, regional or national. A local media outlet is only interested in covering stories that are of relevance to a relatively small geographic area.
Now that you’ve completed the first three steps, it’s important to come up with the text for the press releases. As a general rule of thumb, you will need to limit your press release to 300-500 words. Your goal is to tell the who, what, why, when and where of your story as succinctly as possible. It’s best to divide the body text into a series of short paragraphs of no more than 2-4 sentences each.
When writing the press release, you will also need to observe certain norms within the industry. For example, it’s customary to include at least one quote from someone involved with the story. This helps to bring your press release to life. Also, you should always use the third person when writing about your company, and avoid the use of words like “we” or “I” or “you.”
You will also need to include relevant contact information for your company at the very end of the press release. This is often referred to as the “boilerplate” and will often consist of one very brief paragraph about your company and specific contact information (phone, web, email) for someone at your company.
It’s still customary to mark the end of a press release with the word “END” and the inclusion of “###” at the very end. This is a legacy of the era when press releases really were sent out over the wire and people receiving the press release wanted to make sure that they had all the necessary information.
What’s fascinating is that the modern press release looks almost identical to the first-ever press release, which was sent in October 1906. That press release had a headline, a sub-headline, a date and geographic information. It also used short block paragraphs to tell the story. So you can see the importance of tradition and following the customary norms – when it comes to sending out a press release, you want to make sure that it looks just right.