The Anatomy of a Press Release: A Framework

Anyone who is currently working as a content writer will know that one of the hot services right now is press release creation. Unfortunately, a very high proportion of clients, and indeed, writers themselves, do not understand how a press release differs from a news post, and how it needs to be formatted.

A press release has a set format, which dates back to the days when press releases were transmitted via a telegram type of service. Where do you think the term Newswire comes from? Although this format is not often required for a press release to be syndicated online, a regular news agency will not even consider a press release that is formatted incorrectly for print syndication.

A press release must include a directive, at the top left of the page, in capital letters. This is most usually the following text: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE. However, it can be one of several other directives, which tell the press agency what to do with the PR.

A press release must have a headline, which clearly states the topic of the press release. Some press agencies require this to be in capital letters, others don’t. As a rule of thumb, use capital letters so that your press release is compatible with both standards.

Right after the title, the city or state where the news has originated from must appear, followed by the full date including month, day and year.

Some news syndication networks require a summary of the press release to follow next, others do not. When in doubt, include a summary. This should be a brief synopsis of what the press release contains.

Now we come to the body, and the part of a press release which most people writing them fail to understand. Firstly, the body needs to discuss a newsworthy topic. A press release is not an information article by another name. If you do not present a newsworthy topic, your press release will not be picked up for syndication. Secondly, remember that you are not telling a story, you are imparting facts. Reduce the conversational tone to a bare minimum, and be sure to state hard facts, including names, locations and anything else which is important. If you are going to include quotes within your press release, then make sure they are relevant, and support the news which the press release is attempting to deliver.

An optional section should appear as the last part of the body of the press release, which gives background information on the company, organization or individual which is releasing the news. Once again, some press agencies require this, others do not, so it is good practice to include it in every PR you write.

The last section of a press release contains the contact information of the press contact. This needs to be the full contact information, just a name and an email address will not do. You need to include the name, email address, website, telephone number and full postal address.

The final line of a press release needs to be either END or ###. This is a throwback from the old Newswire days, when this character combination signified the very end of the press release, and many news agencies still expect to see this.

When you submit a badly formatted press release to an offline news agency (and many online agencies), they will not contact you and ask you to revise it, they will simply toss it in the garbage can, you will get no second chance. So it is important to format every press release correctly before submitting it for syndication.