A press release is a short, compelling news story written by a public relations professional and sent to targeted members of the media. The goal of a press release is to pique the interest of a journalist or publication. The press release should contain all the essential information (who? what? where? when? how? and most importantly why?) for the journalist to easily produce his own story.
The Small Business Encyclopedia defines press releases -- also known as news releases -- as "brief, printed statements that outline the major facts of a news story in journalistic style" A press release should read like a news story, written in third-person, citing quotes and sources and containing standard press release information.
The standard press release begins with contact information, mostly likely the name, phone number and e-mail address of the person who wrote the release. Then comes the headline, arguably the most important four or five words in the whole press release. The headline will be what the journalist reads first. If it's not intriguing, newsworthy and unique, he'll read no further.
Press releases typically end with a short description of the company or organization that's issuing the release, along with a call to action. The call to action could be to participate in the event being promoted, to take a test drive of the product, or simply to find out more by contacting the author of the press release
Writing an effective press release involves developing a story idea that's unique, timely and newsworthy
A press release is a free public relations tool, which is especially beneficial for a startup or growing small business. Each press release publicizes important or useful information about an upcoming event or one that has occurred. While a grand opening, special event or new product launch are all good reasons for issuing a release, press releases also alert the public to product recalls while providing important consumer information and working to mitigate an internal crisis.
Anyone can write and submit a press release -- free-of-charge -- to multiple media outlets. Although traditional options include newspapers, radio and television stations, online options are becoming increasingly common. A standard newspaper format makes it easy for the public to distinguish between a press release and an advertisement. For example, a headline, clear, concise wording and a fact-based presentation of the information makes a press release clear and easy to read.
The importance of a press release lies as much in what it doesn’t include as in what it does include. Because press releases typically don’t -- and shouldn’t -- include advertisements, the public often views the information in a press release as credible. De-emphasizing emotions and avoiding strongly worded expressions also enhance credibility. This is particularly important when a press release contains negative information about your business, employees or the products your business sells.
Increasingly, heavy emphasis on social media as a public relations and marketing tool is giving press releases alternative publishing options. Where businesses once had to depend solely on -- and get past -- journalists acting as editors and information gatekeepers, online self-publishing is now a viable option. Posting a press release on your business website and promoting it through social media or an online press release distribution service allows you to directly communicate information to a mass audience and to target specific groups.