A press release is intended to convey information about an upcoming or ongoing event or to make another sort of statement to the media. When writing a press release, keep in mind that many media sources receive a large number of press releases each day, so it is important to keep the information concise, interesting, and accurate. The press release is a hook, and a well written factual release will generate positive publicity. When writing a press release, it is an excellent idea to think your way into the mind of a reporter, making sure that the relevant information is clearly outlined in a way that is not excessively promotional.
General formatting rules for a press release include using a clearly legible, clean font such as Times New Roman or Arial, sizing it appropriately, and double spacing it. “PRESS RELEASE” should be centered and written in bold at the top of the document so that a casual glance will reveal the nature of the communication. A press release should always be sent out on a company letterhead, with contact information listed at the top and bottom. If a company letterhead is not available, a company logo should be added so that the document is clearly an official communication. Press releases should always be checked for spelling and grammatical errors to ensure that they make a positive impression on the recipient.
A press release presents chunks of information in an easily accessible fashion. The press release should lead with a brief header, much like the headline in a newspaper. The header is an opportunity to grab the journalist and pique his or her interest in the rest of the content. Keep it short, informative, and interesting. “Meet famous author Howard Zinn at a cocktail reception on December 16th” is not a good headline, because it is too wordy; “You're Invited to a Reception with Howard Zinn” is better.
Following the header, the first paragraph should detail the quick who, what, where, when, why, and how of the press release. This portion of the press release is the appropriate section in our example for detailing that the event is a cocktail reception in the Hoover Library on Tuesday at 7:00 p.m. Draw the interest of the reader so that he or she is interested in more detail, included in the second paragraph. In our example, the second paragraph may detail Howard Zinn's credentials, the reason for the reception, and other details that flesh out the report. Finally, close with a brief paragraph that wraps up the release and reiterates the pertinent information.