What Is a Press Release?

Some claim that a press release is dead. Others that is nothing more than a brief article. Others yet that a press release is of no particular use for a business.

News inscription on neon signboard
News inscription on neon signboard

Who is right? Is any of these declarations true? Should you ask a content writer to write a press release?

Let’s answer these questions, in order.

First, a definition, please

Wikipedia defines a press release as:

A press release is an official statement delivered to members of the news media for the purpose of providing information, an official statement, or making an announcement.

From this definition we can already glean the role and use of a press release. First, it’s an ”official statement”. That excludes any fun, tongue-in-cheek, informal content. If it’s official and coming from a business, it should be treated as something serious. There’s no room in a press release for jokes, memes or very light-hearted material.

That doesn’t mean that a press release should read like an obituary, God no, but not like your tweets or Instagram stories. As like a white paper is more serious in tone than a blog article, a press release is more formal than other forms of short content.

Next in Wikipedia definition we read:

Delivered to members of the news media

That identifies the scope of a press release: news media. And as they are the kind of people whose job is to inform the public (general, investors or other businesses alike), the press release’s main scope is as well to inform. Writing a press release should be done with this aim in mind, first and foremostly. If a press release doesn’t contain any new information, it is useless. Write a blog article instead if you want to discourse about an area of your business or show how you work. A press release should communicate something new, whether that means a product or a service or a new joiner in your company is up to you. As long as it’s “newsworthy material”, it is adequate for a press release.

Printed paper
Printed paper

The rest of Wikipedia’s definition specifies some press release uses. Providing information, an official statement or making an announcement are all the most common uses of a press release.

The most important thing about a press release

As a press release is released to inform, it should answer the 5 Ws:

  • Who
  • What
  • When
  • Where
  • Why

No matter if you are making a statement about a new stakeholder, a new product, a new marketing director joining your company, a pledge of your company in being more green or a new factory somewhere, do make sure that your press release includes an answer to those 5 Ws.

That’s the most important thing about a press release. If journalists can find a complete press release, including all the right information, they will more promptly write news about it, and that will be more easily digested by their readers.

A comprehensive press release shouldn’t be long, though. Journalists are usually very busy people, and if they can’t get the right information quickly, they may judge your press release not worthy of writing about. The press release will have failed its scope and you would have better spent your marketing money in hiring a content writer for an article or story on your blog.

Make sure that a press release is concise, straight to the point, but also inclusive of the minimal information that a journalist needs to write an article about it. That’s definitely the most important thing about a press release.

Follow the format

A press release is a document that can be released in various formats. It is usually written, but it is not uncommon to have it as an audio record or a video. No matter the format of distribution though, a press release is to be fruited by journalists, and as we have seen they expect some information in it.

Moreover, a specific format in which these information should be conveyed in a press release exists, and is useful in helping the journalists to understand it, digesting the information contained within more quickly.

An old typewriter
An old typewriter

Write your press releases in third person. Include, always, the place of origin of the news. It can be the headquarters of your company, if it’s general news that you want to disclose to the press. The date should always be inserted into a press release. That is of great interest to journalists to pinpoint your news or event in time, now and for the future.

Why you may need a press release

The next time you think of a press release, you will have a clearer idea of what it is now. But what about the “why” of it: why would your business need to write a press release instead of just using a content writer for your articles or blog posts and keeping informing your customers via social media? After all, everybody and their dog has a social media account these days, why bother writing a press release?

A press release markedly increases the chance of your company to be featured on the press. That can mean the classic newspapers as well as online publications in your industry. While it is true that they are increasingly using following companies' news through social media, and then writing about what was disclosed there, it is also true that a well-written press release, with the right information, concise and without rambling about how great is your company (we know it is already), can land you way more attention than a short tweet or a 15 seconds Instagram story.

Besides, do all the journalists covering your industry follow all your social media accounts? Doubtful. More probable that they follow 1-2, at most, and your website. Which is where the press release will be published. The media coverage chances you have with a press release are still larger than with just using social media.

A pile of newspapers
A pile of newspapers

A good press release is also a great tool that can help your SEO. Indeed, many will be surprised that a press release can help SEO, as lots of companies used, and abused, press releases to gain backlinks from all sorts of news sites, reputable and not, for years. Until Google stopped considering those links as “follow” links, and the game was ruined.

What a press release helps in SEO is indirectly: getting talked about in the news will still lead more visitors, humans, to your site. If your content is amazing, if your blog is updated with interesting content and your website is accessible, easy to navigate and working perfectly, SEO-wise, these new visitors will stay, read and return. You have gained potential leads and conversions.

All this not considering the return in visibility and brand awareness that a press release can give you when journalists write about it.

And what you only had to do was to write a short and informative press release!

The only mistake you can make is ignoring press releases or writing bad ones: too long, a low information to self-promotion ratio, not newsworthy. That will put off any journalist and ensure you will have wasted your budget.

Let me know if you are in need of a press release for your company. I’m available anytime for a free consultation: contact me!