Pitch Perfect:
Crafting a Great Press Release

Speaking as an experienced journalist, I want to let you in on a little secret – there is always something going on somewhere with someone. We want the scoop, and we are constantly searching for not only the most recent but the most relevant story to tell. But with the internet providing breaking news 24/7, how can your company rise above the waves of mediocrity?

You’ve already learned to build relationships with your reporters. As with all good relationships, however, there must be constant and clear communication. That’s where the press release comes in.

A press release is like an invitation to prom. Teenagers across the country know being in a relationship with someone does not automatically equal an invite to the biggest event on the high school calendar. Ask, be asked, or risk earning wallflower status. But a shrug and an awkward, “Wanna go?” won’t cut it anymore. Do a quick Google search of “promposals,” and you’ll see how high the bar is set.

So it goes with press releases. They are short, hopefully compelling, documents that give enough details of your company’s newest venture to cause a journalist to stop and take notice. You must not only send them facts, figures and information; you have to make it memorable and virtually impossible to pass up.

Assuming you know the basic format of a typical press release, I’ll skip to the stuff that will set yours apart from the others.

  • Hook ‘em with the headline. If you can catch our attention in 8 words or less, we’ll be interested enough to see what you’re offering. Use active verbs, be interesting and engaging yet accurate, and make it short enough to post on Twitter with a link attached.
  • Get to the point. Our time is just as precious as yours. Odds are high we’ll only read the first paragraph and scan the rest, so you want to get your message out quickly. Include the most important information in the first 3 sentences, and use the following paragraphs to support and embellish on what you’ve already established.
  • Show us the numbers. Here’s the thing. Words are our lives. We’ve mastered narrative. What we need from you quantitative proof to back up what you’re telling us about your company. Percentages, statistics, numbers we’d consider boring in our everyday lives –we can take this information and make it sound as impressive as Mozart’s 5th Symphony, but only if you give it to us.
  • Make it quotable. Somebody has something to say about your subject. Tell us who and what it is. Quotes keep articles alive, and they tell us who we should talk to if we need to set up an interview. That being said, don’t quote someone who will be unavailable for an interview. It’s incredibly inconvenient.
  • Skip the jargon. Your company is its own world with its own, unique terms. While you might know what it means when your binge-watching hyperconnectivity caused you to be catfished, the general population probably doesn’t. Use plain language to tell us what your company is up to. Follow the advice of Albert Einstein who said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”
  • I.S.S. (Keep It Short and Simple). Along those same lines, a press release should be limited to one page. Sometimes two. NEVER three or more. Nobody has time for that. Three hundred words or less is sufficient enough to tell us everything we need to know.
  • Include your contact information. It seems like common sense, but you’d be surprised how many press releases leave out this crucial piece of info. Nothing is worse than being excited about writing a story only to find you have no way of getting in touch with anyone. Don’t just leave us with your email address. Deadlines are tight, and a phone call is always quicker than email.

Follow these tips, and you’re bound to score an interview.  Speaking of which, don’t miss the next segment in this series, “Interview Intel” where I’ll let you in how to give quotes that matter.

Series Part 1: Relationship Reform  | Part 3: Interview Intel | Part 4: Friendly Followup


Amy is a published journalist, writer and world explorer.