Press Release Format Guidelines
A press release is a written communication that purports to report on an event, circumstance or occurrence by a third party, and is provided to the news media for the purpose of promotion.
Business, organizational or personal press releases are different from a news article in that a news article is a compilation of facts developed by journalists and then published as news content within a given media outlet.
A press release, on the other hand, is designed to be sent to journalists and or media outlets (newspapers, magazines, broadcasters, etc.) in order to encourage them (the reporter or actual media outlet) to develop news articles on the subject. A press release is generally biased toward the objectives of the press release’s author and is most often viewed as raw materials by the media when creating news content.
Since the advent of the Internet the lines between “news” as compared to a press release are getting blurred, but the purpose of a press release, within its related format, is to reach out to the media to get them to report on your particular message, with secondary “direct to readership” benefits associated with overall Internet based publicity.
The Press Release Format
You must report in the “third person”. Just like a news release, a press release purports to report on an event, circumstance or occurrence by a third party. When writing a news release, be a reporter and report on yourself or your business.
Third Person Example: “According to John Doe, the next version of Webster’s Dictionary will include two new slang terms that were identified in his research as being part of …”.
Inappropriate Example: “I, John Doe, was informed that the next version of Webster’s Dictionary will include two new slang terms that I identified in my research as being part of …”
Press releases are most effective when they are under 500 words, generally two to three paragraphs, preceded by a clear and attention grabbing headline.
Remember, this content is intended to be used by the media, so be accurate and reasonably detailed.
Be creative and keep it to one sentence. Capitalize the first letter of all words but do not use all upper case letters. Exclamation marks (“!”) conveys that your release is advertising, not news, and it’s the credibility of news that generates the good publicity.
Physical location (country, state, city), Month, Day, Year - Begin with a strong introductory paragraph that captures the reader’s attention and contains the information most relevant to your message such as the “Five W's” of (W)ho, (W)hat, (W)hen, (W)here, and (W)hy, when applicable. This paragraph should summarize the News Release such that if it was the only part seen by a reader, it would tell your entire message, and it should include a hook to get your audience interested in reading more.
Paragraph 2, 3, 4, …
These paragraphs should contain more detailed important information, and make up the body of the release. Pick up with the information provided in your first paragraph, including quotes from key staff, customers or subject matter experts. Make sure you use correct grammar so as not to affect your credibility negatively.
As for content, make sure to keep in mind that you are writing a press release to grab the attention of the media. It is very important to maintain factual accuracy, make sure you are cleared to use quotes or information about businesses, and most importantly have an angle that will appeal to journalists (often by connecting your release to current events or issues). Effective releases usually utilize a strategy known as the inverted pyramid, which is written with the most important information and quotes first.
Try to keep the press release to fewer than 500 words total. Remember, succinct and to the point works best.
The body of your release should be more than one paragraph. The final paragraph should restate and summarize the key points of your release.
Provide avenues for the reader to obtain additional information, demos, samples, etc., and it is important to Internet links. WebWire® provides special data submission fields for company/agency name, contact, telephone, email address, website location, etc. and other online connections (links).
Include trademark acknowledgments, product or event timelines, availability, logistics, etc. in paragraph form.
Background information about the company featured in the release, if appropriate, as well as any applicable safe harbor statement or disclaimers.
With a WebWire submission, include contact information about the release (name, title, email, telephone, etc.) within the appropriate online form. Make sure it is the person who can answer questions about the release.
(End with these characters immediately below)
A Sample Press Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Rockwell Collins Helmet Mounted Display Selected For AVCATT
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (August 09, 2009) - The U.S. Army, through the Program Executive Office of Simulation Training and Instrumentation, has awarded Rockwell Collins a $23.8 million contract for the Aviation Combined Arms Tactical Trainer (AVCATT) Helmet Mounted Display (HMD) modification and upgrade program.
"This is a great example of how Rockwell Collins integrates multiple disciplines to provide the best solutions for our customers," said Ron Hornish, vice president and general manager, Sensor Systems for Government Systems at Rockwell Collins. "In this case, our expertise in helmet mounted displays and simulation and training made us the right choice for the AVCATT program."
AVCATT is a mobile, transportable, virtual simulation training system designed to provide Army aviation with the capability to conduct realistic, high intensity training exercises and mission rehearsals. The system allows pilots to train and rehearse through networked simulation in a collective and combined arms simulated battlefield environment.
The contract calls for Rockwell Collins to provide the SimEye SR100A HMD, a more compact, lightweight, high-resolution upgrade for its already proven SimEye XL100A, which is presently used in AVCATT.
Developed based on feedback from the warfighter, enhancements include higher resolution, upgraded head tracker technology and reductions in head-borne weight and overall size. The SimEye SR100A HMD allows pilots to feel as if they are part of an environment as opposed to simply viewing a scene during training.
Rockwell Collins will be integrating its HMD -- incorporating an integral IS-900 head tracker -- with its EPX-50 image generator. By optimizing overall system performance of the HMD technology, Rockwell Collins will ensure the success of the visual displays for the AVCATT trainer.
The work for the AVCATT program, which was awarded under the Rockwell Collins' Simulation, Training and Instrumentation Command (STRICOM) Omnibus Contract, will be completed in the company's Carlsbad, Calif. and Orlando, Fla. locations.
Rockwell Collins (NYSE: COL) is a pioneer in the development and deployment of innovative communication and aviation electronics solutions for both commercial and government applications. Our expertise in flight deck avionics, cabin electronics, mission communications, information management and simulation and training is delivered by 19,000 employees, and a global service and support network that crosses 27 countries. To find out more, please visit www.rockwellcollins.com.
Jane Doe, Media Relations
# # #
A FINAL NOTE: WebWire is a highly trafficked Website and is part of what is commonly known as the “Four Ps of Marketing”; Product, Price, Place and Promotion (with WebWire being part of “Promotion” via press release distribution). This one part of the marketing mix, press release distribution, does not guarantee that your release will get utilized by the media. Press release submissions are part of a process, and as such, should be viewed as a complement to other marketing efforts such as advertising, search engine optimization, live publicity, etc.