Press release structure: making your content stand out on the screen
What good is a press release if no one reads it? In order to make your release a reader’s dream come true (and perhaps an editor’s as well), there are a few approaches and design/layout elements that you should be taking advantage of. What if you just…
- Write a brief, but catchy, headline
- Use a few bullet points
- Utilize bolding, italics and underlines
- Cough up some quotes
Let me elaborate on the above recommendations.
1. Write a brief, but catchy, headline
Headlines should communicate the main idea of the release, capture the attention of the reader, include the company name, and do so in ten words or less. The headline of a press release should present the news in a catchy, but informative manner, such as “Marketwire Shares Exclusive Insights Into Social Media Conversations as 2012 Summer Games Unfold.” And steer clear of unnecessary sensational punctuation — exclamation points may scare journalists since it seems like someone is yelling at them.
2. Use a few bullet points
Notice how the above bulleted list stands out from everything else in this post? Use bullets to break up the information. Just as they make it easier to scan a blog post, they also help a reader scan a press release (more about the importance of scannability later). Unfortunately, few press releases contain bullet points. Drop in a short list of bullet points to highlight the key points of an announcement and prepare to be amazed at how much more streamlined the text becomes! Press releases that look like a giant block of words will often be overlooked in favor of those which are shorter with a greater density of facts (take this blog post for example).
3. Utilize bolding, italics and underlines
Emphasis is best achieved by bolding, italicizing or underlining text or — in limited use — writing an entire word or phrase in CAPITAL letters. Spice it up by bolding key terms and names, but be careful not to go overboard. Bolding should be used sparingly and only to draw the reader’s eye. If everything is bold, nothing will stand out. And be especially timid when using italics — they draw attention but can be hard to read. Similarly, some websites display information only in plain text or do not accept the HTML code necessary to use these types of textual cues, by adding quotation marks you can make text stand out from the words around it on the screen.
4. Cough up some quotes
Include quotes that can be pulled directly from your press release, makes it easy for journalist to directly attribute information: the media loves getting quotes right from the source of the news. If possible, use quotes that really highlight the impact of the news. Supporting assertions with quotes from analysts, customers (especially if the release is product-related) and executives from the company enhances the case being made. Quotes from company representatives, typically upper-level management or designated spokespeople, are a great way for the audience to get a more personal sense of the topic at hand. Quotes can help make a release exciting, while also substantiating the information that the news release is conveying.
The main objective of the above key points is to make the text of a press release able to be scanned. Press releases are very temporary documents; readers do not give them a lot of time, and much like a website, a key lesson for this type of writing is to be scannable. The main goal when organizing a release should be to construct a document that the reader can move through quickly and get the gist of without actually reading every single word. That means using bullet points, numbered lists, bolding, italics, underlining, and quotes to make it easy to scan the page rather than read it from start to finish. Plus, the journalists reading your release are also reading tons of other releases, and don’t you want yours to be the one release that stands out?