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What Is a Press Release? Definition, Examples and Best Practices

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According to our 2023 State of the Media report, press releases are the number-one resource journalists rely on to generate ideas for stories. They’re also among the most useful ways to generate earned media coverage for your brand. This article will cover the meaning of a press release, why they’re so powerful and how you can get started using them. 

What Is a Press Release?

The definition of a press release is a statement that provides information about a significant event to members of the news media. Also called PR releases or news releases, they’re typically written by an organization’s PR or corporate communications team, or by a PR agency representing them. Press releases provide basic information to journalists, who use them as the starting point for a story. 

The goal of a press release is to get your desired message into the hands of the journalists who are most likely to be interested in it – and gain positive media attention for your organization. Done right, press releases are an essential part of your communication strategy. 

Reasons to Use Press Releases

Even as the media landscape has become more complex and digital marketing channels have grown, press releases are a mainstay for both communications teams and journalists – and for good reason. They can help you:

Establishing media relationships: A well-written press release can gain attention from journalists who might be interested in your story and start an ongoing dialogue with them.

Reputation management: You control the narrative of press releases, which makes them important to boost your brand reputation, counteract negative publicity and manage crises

Search engine optimization (SEO): Optimizing your press releases by using  relevant keywords can help drive organic traffic to your website and boost your SEO rankings.

Going viral: It’s difficult to predict when something will go viral, but if your press release gets enough attention on social media, it can bring your organization even more attention.

What’s in a Press Release?

Following a similar template makes it easy for journalists and other readers to scan the content, digest it and quickly get the information they need. Use this press release example template if you’re just starting out.

  • Contact information: Your organization’s name, address, phone number and email should always go at the top. 
  • Headline: A headline that summarizes the press release but also grabs attention is essential for any press release.
  • Introduction: This is a quick summary of the who, what, when, where and why.
  • Body: The body provides more detailed information in the classic “inverted pyramid” style, with the most important details first. 
  • Boilerplate: At the bottom of the press release, include information about your organization’s goals, mission and vision, like the “About” section on your website.

Examples of Press Releases

Looking at more specific PR release examples will give you a better idea of when to use them and what to include.

Releasing Proprietary Research: Your proprietary research is valuable because it adds something new to the conversation that a journalist may not have heard before – and it has your company branding. Make sure your headline includes the most interesting takeaway from the study, and that the body includes plenty of statistics and a link to download the full study. 

Example: Study Finds AI and Emerging Technologies Increasing Tension as Journalists Face Growing Challenges to Maintain Accuracy and Truth

Changes in Leadership: Company restructuring, creating new departments, and major changes in leadership, such as a new CEO, are all great reasons for a press release. Your headline should be straightforward, while the body should include details about the changes. Be sure to include plenty of direct quotes from company leadership, too. 

Example: Cision Announces Cali Tran as New CEO

Launching a New Service: Your business works hard on new products and services, which is why launches are one of the most common examples of a press release. It should include a description of the product or service, several quotes, statistics and facts about its benefits and a link to where the journalist can learn more. 

Example: Cision Unveils Guaranteed Paid Placement, Providing Clients with Unmatched Visibility and Control over their Brand's Story

Winning an Award: Awards are something to be proud of, and definitely a reason for a press release. Even if it isn’t an award journalists have heard of, you could still expand their knowledge about what’s out there. Explain what the award is and why it’s important, and include quotes from your organization’s relevant, high-ranking employees. Link to the page where the journalist can learn more about the award and the organization that gives it out. 

Example: Cision Named “Adoption Hero” in ChurnZero's 2022 ChurnHero Awards

Press Release Writing Tips

The format of a press release is a start, but to really get your message out, it needs to be compelling, yet short and to the point. Here are some tips for getting your press release noticed.

  • There is no “perfect” length for a press release, as it should vary by announcement, but we recommend aiming for about 500 words, and no longer than a page. Journalists receive up to hundreds of press releases a week, so make it detailed enough to provide information, but short enough that it’s a quick read. 
  • Grab attention with your headline. Keep it crisp and catchy, and don’t use tactics like “clickbait” headlines. Your headline should tell the reader exactly what the story is about and why they should care.
  • Include multimedia like photos, videos and infographics. They can help your press release get attention and engagement because they’re easily digestible and shareable.
  • Include at least two quotes in the body of your press release, one from someone at your organization and one from someone outside your organization. Quotes add credibility. 
  • Don’t be salesy. Press releases aren’t advertisements or product placements. Trying to “sell” your business can backfire. Keep it factual and help the journalist understand why reporting on this story is important and could benefit them. 
  • Link to relevant stories, websites and articles in your press release to help the journalists and the public find more information. 

How to Distribute a Press Release

The time has come: You’ve looked at PR news release examples and written your own. The headline is catchy, and the details are all there. But how do you get it in front of the right people? There are several ways to distribute press releases, depending on your resources and budget.

Self-Managed Press Release Distribution

Building your own list of journalists and contacts is the lowest-cost option for distributing your press releases. First, identify the journalists that would be most interested in your stories, like those that cover your industry. Use search engines and free, online media databases to find their email addresses and keep track of them in a spreadsheet. (If it’s within your budget, consider investing in a media database platform that enables you to easily build lists and reach out to journalists directly from the platform.)

As you begin to send out press releases, note which journalists are most responsive and build relationships with them. This method for distributing press releases can be time-consuming, but it’s popular with individuals and small businesses who don’t have a lot of PR budget.

Online Press Release Distribution Platforms

Online platforms for press release distribution are another popular option for businesses of all sizes. These platforms let you send your press release to a database of media contacts, like journalists and influencers. You can typically filter by industry, geographic area and language, and sometimes by more specific criteria like publication or journalist. 

Most online PR platforms aren’t free, but many offer flexible pricing so you can choose what’s right for you. You’re likely to find that the benefits of time and effort saved with the help of an automated platform outweigh the costs. 

Cision’s PR Newswire service, for example, sends press releases to hundreds of thousands of newsrooms and journalists, and thousands of websites and other digital media outlets. Plus, agencies often provide other services that go above and beyond distributing press releases. 

Full-Service PR Agencies

For large enterprises and organizations with busy press release schedules, full-service PR agencies could be a viable option. They often have decades of experience, which means they have a vast database of contacts and can share press releases to some of the largest and most-sourced networks. 

Getting Started

Ready to find out how press releases can garner more awareness for your brand or organization? Check out the Ultimate Toolkit for Getting Your Press Release Noticed or speak to a Cision expert today to get started.