When your company has big, exciting news, you want to shout it from the rooftops. You want to reach your target market, create a buzz about your product, and leave your audience eager to know more. But with so many ways to reach people, it can be confusing to know where to start. Should you post it on social media? Publish a press release? Contact the media with a story?
If you want to go big, you’ll likely need a press release. While the terms “news release” and “press release” are often used interchangeably, they’re not the same. Both announce new, significant information, but there are some important differences.
Learning when to use them, along with some best practices, will ensure your next big announcement makes an impact.
The Difference Between Press Releases and News Releases
What are press releases?
Press releases are formal announcements issued by organizations, companies, government agencies, and individuals to the news media. They share newsworthy information about an event, product launch, milestone, or other significant development. They are written like news articles and provide all the necessary details to help reporters cover the story accurately.
The aim is to grab the media’s attention and entice them to publish the story in newspapers, magazines, TV programs, radio shows, online news sites, and other media outlets. Press releases play a crucial role in public relations (PR) and media outreach strategies.
What are news releases?
News releases also announce information, but they have a broader scope and aren’t limited to media outlets. They are shared directly with the general public, stakeholders, customers, employees, and other interested parties.
News releases might be published on an organization’s website, shared on social media, sent via newsletters, or distributed through other channels. While they may contain newsworthy information, they aren’t always written in a journalistic style like a press release.
How To Write a Great Press Release
Done well, a press release can become a crucial component of your marketing strategy. If done poorly, they will end up unread in a reporter’s trash folder. To write an enticing press release, follow these six steps:
Step 1. Personalize the subject line.
Journalists receive thousands of emails a day. They delete most of them. Before you hit send, research who you’re sending the message to and personalize both the subject line and the email. Only send it to journalists you know who typically write stories about what you’re announcing. Congratulate them on any recent accomplishments — “Congrats on that Emmy! What an accomplishment!” Make sure to be genuine. No one likes a brown noser. Starting points include checking out the person’s LinkedIn account and researching past stories they’ve written. Make sure to personalize the email. You won’t get any traction if it looks like a copy and paste you’ve sent everyone in your contact book.
Step 2. Hook the readers with a killer headline.
In this day and age, most people have the attention span of a gnat. Think three seconds, at most. If you want a readership larger than your immediate family, be snappy, funny, and trendy — both when drafting a headline and the subject line when you email the release to reporters. Avoid resorting to clickbait or exaggerated claims that, more likely than not, leave readers feeling misled or disappointed. Be short, sweet, and tout the benefit of reading. People will always want to know what’s in it for them. If you don’t know how to do this, hire a copywriter to do it for you.
Step 3. Write it in the third person.
Avoid using first and second person unless you’re including a direct quote. And when you do use a quote, include something insightful or inspirational — don’t make it all about you. Stick to reporting the facts of the event. The goal is to make it look like a short announcement.
Step 4. Stick to one topic.
Have you ever been part of a conversation where the speaker just couldn’t stay on topic? Your mind starts to wander, and you look for ways to get them to their point. The same applies here. Don’t make things confusing and unnecessarily long by jumbling together all topics that come to mind. If you have an event coming up, stick with the facts of the event: date, location, time, and guest speaker(s).
Step 5. Get to the point.
A well-crafted press release will have 400 words or less. Use the first paragraph to tell the audience about the upcoming event. Use the second paragraph to summarize how the event will be helpful for your target audience. Include a third paragraph providing your contact information, and bid adieu. You can make it longer if you have additional relevant information to share — but don’t make it longer than five paragraphs. Use short sentences and write in an active voice. If you want to get chatty, do it when people attend your event.
Step 6. Use proper punctuation.
Listen, grammar matters. Too many people rely on spell-check — or fail to proofread a statement — at the expense of their credibility. You only have one chance to make a good first impression. Don’t botch it over something that’s so easily preventable, especially when you’re targeting an educated audience.
How To Write a Great News Release
News releases can be about any topic a community would find relevant or newsworthy. They can be based on politics, heartwarming stories of good samaritans, crime, or scandals, to name a few. Their purpose is to inform readers about what’s happening around them in an objective manner. They answer five basic questions:
- What happened?
- When did it happen?
- Who was involved?
- Where did it happen?
- Why did it happen?
To keep the reader’s attention, know your audience — their age, geographical location, income bracket, education, and interests. News outlets targeting millennials tend to use a different format than those targeting Baby Boomers — especially concerning politics.
When in doubt, hire a professional. You don’t want to miss an opportunity to create a buzz about your company.