According to rapidpressrelease.com, a press release announcing an event is more likely to contain errors than any other type. One reason for this is that people confuse a press release with a business flyer, which is more informal. Regardless of the specific event, people writing a press release should stick to the same basic format. Keep in mind that the purpose of a press release is not to provide readers with every possible detail. The point is to provide just enough information that a reader will follow-up with the client to learn more. It should be direct, to the point, and answer the questions who, what, when, and where within the first paragraph.
Always Speak in Third Person
Using third person in a press release makes it sound more professional and formal, even when a person is referring to himself or herself. He, she, it, and they are all examples of third person words to use when discussing a person or event. Press release writers should take care not to slip into using first person terms like me, my, and I. Direct quotes are the only exception to this. They must contain quotation marks and an attribution so the reader knows who is speaking.
It’s also preferable to use proper names when possible rather than frequently reverting to he or she. It’s only necessary to state the full name of the person speaking or providing information one time. After that, referring to him or her by only the last name is fine.
Some Things to Avoid When Writing a Press Release
Due to the brief, formal nature of a press release, it’s essential for it to come across as professional as possible. The goal is to pique the interest of journalists and other news sources who will republish the press release and help draw even more attention to the event. For this reason, press release writers should avoid the following:
- Using promotional language. Press releases are factual pieces of writing that speak for themselves when written well. It’s not necessary to overstate the importance of the event or the people associated with it.
- Using all capital letters, exclamation points, symbols such as *, underlining, or colored highlighting as this comes across more amateur than professional. The one exception for capital letters is when listing stock symbols or referring to an abbreviation or acronym after listing the word or term in full one time.
- Using a font size and style other than the traditional 12-point Times New Roman, Arial, Helvetica, and other well-known styles.
Formatting the Press Release
Catching the attention of journalists and other media professionals starts with a great title. It should contain no more than eight words and get directly to the point. The first letter of each word in the title should be capitalized, with the exception of words like as, the, and on. Press release writers should avoid using special characters in the title, including the Registered Trademark symbol or quote marks. If a copyright symbol is part of the press release body, it only needs to be included once in the first paragraph.
The main body of a press release follows a very specific format. It starts with the city and two-letter state abbreviation followed by the date in long format. It is written in italics with one dash after the state and two dashes after the date. After that comes an opening sentence to inform the reader what the remainder of the body will cover. Here is an example:
Minneapolis, MN – December 1, 2015– The blog post below is the second of 10 on how to write specific types of content for clients.
The body of the press release should contain a minimum of 300 words broken up into even paragraphs when possible. Most media outlets prefer 500 words and may reject anything longer than 700 words. However, online outlets may have longer word count requirements. The purpose of the body of the press release is to provide additional information on the who, what, when, and where highlighted in the opening paragraph. Depending on the specific event, expounding on why it’s being held or its history may be helpful here as well.
If the press release is to be posted online, limit the number of outgoing links to only those that are necessary. Having too many links decreases the professionalism and may have a spam-like appearance to those who are reading it.
It’s unlikely that writers on Content Runner will need to be concerned with this, but it’s helpful to know what goes here anyway. The boilerplate includes the client’s contact details, which is typically a telephone number and email address. This is for people to get in touch with the subject of the press release to request additional information. The final section also includes a few sentences about the organization sponsoring the event.
Click here to see a sample press release announcing an upcoming event. As always, please ask for clarification from Content Runner clients as their requirements may differ.