How to Write a Press Release | Ashley M. Biggers | Skillshare

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Class Project


    • 3.

      Press Release Foundations


    • 4.

      Press Releases, Step-by-Step


    • 5.

      Polishing Your Press Release


    • 6.

      Following Up on Your Release


    • 7.

      Wrapping Up


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About This Class

Press releases are essential tools for media outreach that can help land your business or organization headlines. Media coverage can enhance your brand’s credibility, offer social proof, and share your message with an audience far greater than you could reach on your own.  

In this class, you’ll learn the ins and outs of writing a press release. Using my insider knowledge as a journalist, I’ll teach you what best catches the attention of the media and how you can ensure your press release will land coverage. 

This class is fitting for any one who wants to share information with the press and earn media coverage for their business. You don’t need to be a public relations or communications professional to take this course. However, representatives of those fields will certainly find good information here, too. The only background knowledge you need to have is about your business. This course will teach you everything you need to know about writing, polishing, and sending press releases.

Meet Your Teacher

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Ashley M. Biggers

Journalist and Educator


Ashley M. Biggers is an award-winning writer and editor. Throughout her 20-year professional writing career, her bylines have appeared in numerous print and digital publications, including USA Today, CNN, Self, Outside, and Paste. She earned her master's degree in mass communications from Arizona State University. 

In her online courses, Ashley uses her insider knowledge as a journalist to help entrepreneurs confidently approach media outlets, share their stories authentically, and amplify that media coverage to benefit their businesses and missions.

See full profile

Level: Beginner

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1. Introduction: Hello, I'm Ashley M. Biggers. I'm a journalist with more than 20 years of experience in the field. I earned my Masters Degree from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. During my career, I've written some 2,500 articles, interviewed more than 10,000 sources and earned by lines in top national and regional publications such as CNN, USA Today, and Self to name a few. I've also received my fair share of press releases, usually hundreds a week. Press releases are essential tools for media outreach for your business. They can help your company land headlines in mass media, including TV, radio, newspapers, and magazines. Media coverage can enhance your brand's credibility, offer social proof, and share your message with an audience far greater than you could reach on your own, and I know what works well when it comes to press releases and what falls flat. In this class, you'll learn to write a press release. Using my insider knowledge, I'll teach you what best catches the attention of the media and how you can ensure your press release will land coverage. This class is fitting for any business professional who wants to share information with the press and earn media coverage for their company. You don't need to be a public relations or communications professional to take this course,however, representatives of those fields, will certainly find good information here too. The only background knowledge you need to have is about your business, especially whatever is newsworthy about it, and you want to share with the press. This course will teach you everything else you need to know about writing, polishing, and sending press releases. To write an effective press release, you'll need to know the best circumstances to use one, so that's where we'll start a discussion of the best times and instances to use a press release, then we'll dive into who you'll send your release to, and the timeline you should use to send it. Next, I'll walk you through step-by-step instructions on drafting a press release, will break down each component in depth, then we'll discuss special circumstances that will maximize the chances that your press release will get picked up in the press. Lastly, we'll discuss when and how to follow up, since follow up is an essential part of the process. Press releases can bridge the divide between your business and the press. I'm excited to help you get your message out so that your businesses story can be told. Ready, let's get started. 2. Class Project: The project for today's class is to write a press release. But you won't just write a standard release, you'll craft a message that will help you grab journalists' attention. Press releases are one of the most common tools used in media outreach. They are ideally a one-page documents that announce your news to the press. Because they're used to generate coverage, knowledge of press release writing is vital if you're looking to grow your business's presence in the press. As I'm sure you know, press coverage can build your brand recognition, enhance your company's credibility, grow your audience and customer base, and ultimately benefit your bottom line. All those benefits can begin with a well written press release. Press releases are also misunderstood and often misused in media outreach. They're highly stylized documents that emulate the format of news articles. They have several written rules, but they also have several unwritten rules. There's a lot that can go a mess when crafting a release. With that in mind, in this course, we'll start by building foundational knowledge. We'll begin with a big picture look at press releases and the media environment. so you can just sit back and take all that in. In the next lesson, we'll get into the nuts and bolts of writing a release. Expect to begin writing your released then. Next we'll talk about how to polish a release for impact. Finally, we'll wrap up by looking at how to follow up on your release and create lasting professional relationships with members of the press. By the end of this class, you'll understand the strategy behind writing a release, as well as have a step-by-step guide to completing one. Press releases will no longer seem mysterious. Instead, you'll have the knowledge and skills to efficiently and effectively craft a press release, both now and whenever you need to communicate with the press in the future. Before you begin the class, you may want to take a few minutes to jot down the information you want to get across to the press. Think about what's new, interesting, timely, or exciting about your business. Try to write this information in a few sentences or even a single sentence. Knowing your central message will help you prepare your release more quickly when you're ready to write. In the first lesson, we'll talk about the important contexts around sending a press release. I'll see you there. 3. Press Release Foundations: Welcome to the first lesson. In this lesson, we'll talk about important foundational knowledge for sending a press release. First, we'll talk about the media landscape. It's important for you to know about the overall environment so you can take a tactical approach to sending your releases. Then we'll talk about instances when a press release is useful for your media outreach strategy. Finally, we'll talk about who you should send a press release to, and when you should send it. So let's get started. Press releases are essential tools for sharing your latest news with the media and therefore the public. Plus press releases can be extremely cost-effective. They only cost your time and effort to write, and they can achieve free earned media coverage with high $ value and great return on investment. However, knowing how to write a press release effectively is critical. Journalists are extremely busy. They work based off 24-hour news cycles and they're tasked with taking in and reporting on a great deal of information every day. They only respond to the most compelling stories they receive. So if you send something that's lackluster, the message will simply be deleted. Here are a few initial pieces of advice about sending press releases. First, make sure you truly have news and noteworthy information to share. If you overuse press releases and send them out too often the media will start to tune out your message. Second, a press release is just that. It's a release of information to the broad press. If you want a particular media entity to cover your story in a particular way, it's better to approach that outlet individually with a pitch. Press releases should not be used to communicate with clients, stakeholders or other constituencies, they're tools to communicate specifically with the media. Now, let's talk about the circumstances in which you should send a press release. First-off, Breaking News Announcements. The news media wants to cover just that, news. The media prioritizes stories that are timely, and press outlets also compete with each other to get information first and to report on it best. If you have information that's breaking, it will be more compelling to the press. Second up, launches. The media wants to know about new businesses, new store locations, new products or new services. Third, events. It's fitting to send press releases to announce things like press conferences, fundraisers or community events. They're also interested in knowing about new partnerships. If you team up with other businesses or community organizations on an initiative, this may earn media interest. You can also send a press release based on milestones in your business. This is a great way to create news if there's nothing really new happening within your business. For example, you could send a release based on an anniversary, a sales benchmark or other noteworthy milestones. New hires. In particular business publications and business sections within broader publications are interested in knowing about the movers and shakers you have working at your company. You can also send a release based on an award. Don't be afraid to talk yourself up a bit. If your business has earned an award, share that with the press. Next, research and data. If your company has discovered unique insights, these may be praiseworthy. They are a particularly newsworthy if that information taps into a trend that's already being covered in the press. Key data stories include information changes over time, any outliers you've discovered, or significant averages. Lastly, consider sending a press release for crisis management. If something goes wrong or an act of God occurs, it's best to share that information with the press first, rather than letting them discover it and come to you. Now that you know a few of the circumstances when it's fitting to send the press or release, you'll need to think about how to frame your news when you share it. In other words, you'll need to establish a story angle. An important way to begin thinking about your story angle is to ask the question. So what? Answering this question for yourself compels you to figure out the broader meaning and impact of your news. The press will want to know what your news means beyond the doors of your business. Here are a few specific ways to frame your story angle. First, think about impact. How is your story impacting the local community, the field that your business is in, or the industry at large? Second up, conflict, is your news giving another side to a conflict, trend or commonly held piece of knowledge? Third, problem-solving. Is your piece of news highlighting progress made towards a certain problem? Lastly, human interest. Does your news evoke an emotional response in the readers and tell an individual's story as a way to get at a bigger issue? Now that you understand how to frame a story angle in your release, let's talk about two essential questions that always come up when considering sending a press release. When you should send the release and who you should send it to. As for when you should send your release, the answer is always the sooner the better. Weeks early as better than days early, which is better than hours early. Even if all you're able to send is a preliminary sketch of what's going to occur, do it. Get your news out so it's on the media's calendars so that they can play in coverage around what's happening. If you have some flexibility in your release date and you're not sending breaking news aimed to get your story out early in the week. Tuesdays are ideal, especially earlier in the day. Avoid Fridays unless you're specifically wanting to get your story buried because that's what will happen if you send it then. Next let's talk about who you should send your press release to. You should develop a list of media outlets, these outlets should represent two things. One, they should match the audience you want to reach with your message and two, they should cover stories similar to those you're wanting to seat broadcast in the media. Think about sending your release to industry publications, local, regional, national newspapers, magazines, radio shows and TV shows, general news sites, and bloggers. You should send your release via e-mail, so you'll need to gather e-mail contacts for each of the media outlets you want to send your release to. These e-mail addresses can be found on the media outlets websites. Often there's a general catchall e-mail address that they suggest sending idea submissions. If there isn't you'll need to find an individualist to send your release to. Keep in mind that the person at the top of a media outlets organizational chart isn't always the best person to send your release to. For example, editors and chief receive hundreds of e-mails a day. So if you send it to them, your press release majors get lost in a deep e-mail box, among other things. Additionally, editors and chief make decisions about what's covered based on the recommendations of their trusted section editors and journalists. You should try to find someone to champion your story first. In this case, the better choice would be to send the release to a section editor or a journalist who can then decide where your story best fits. Although you may be sending out your release to a substantial list of reporters, it's best not to send these releases in one batch. First-off batch e-mails tend to get caught in spam filters. Additionally, more targeted e-mails tend to be more effective than batch missives. Overall, remember that press releases are designed to share new and noteworthy information. Although they're designed to publicize information widely, you should still choose your recipient's selectively. Target you're released to the media outlets and to the people who are most likely to cover your news and send it early so you have the best chance of getting your story covered. In the next lesson, we'll discuss the structure of a press release and dive into each component in depth. If you haven't already, now's a good time to jot down the news that you want to share in a few sentences. I'll see you in the next lesson. 4. Press Releases, Step-by-Step: [MUSIC] Welcome to the next lesson. In this lesson, I'll guide you through writing a press release step by step. First, let's make sure you understand the overall tone and structure of a release. First, you'll want to write in the third person. In other words, don't use I or we. Act as though your press release could be published without a journalists doing anything to it, because that might happen. If possible, write in AP style, which is the grammatical style that the news media uses. This will make it easier for the media to pick up and potentially publish release as is. However, if you're not familiar or accustomed to using AP style, don't let that be a stumbling block. Press releases should be brief. The best press releases are one page in length and around 500 words. Remember, your release is just an announcement. It's meant to entice journalists to learn more and do further reporting. You don't have to explain the full story or the full complexity of an issue within the release itself. Paragraphs should be brief as well, three sentences at most, and a single sentence paragraph is okay too. Think about the structure of a press release like an inverted triangle, with the widest part at the top and the point at the bottom. This shape dictates how the information is conveyed, with the bulk of the information at the top of the release. In most cases, the essential information in the release is conveyed in the headline and the first paragraph of the release. Everything else just adds additional context and understanding. However, that top section really does the heavy lifting when it comes to expressing the key information. Next, let's talk a bit more in depth about each of the sections of the press release. You'll want to begin your document with a proper language around the timing of the release. For example, if you want your release to go out to the public right away, you'll mark it "For Immediate Release" at the top of the document. If you want to wait for the information to be released at a certain time, but you're providing the release in advance so the press can plan coverage, use hold release until such and such date. This will inform the press how to treat the press release and when they can share that information with the public. Next, you'll want to list contact information. This contact information should direct journalists to the appropriate person for further information. That may be you, that may be your CEO, that may be a communications professional who can fill reporters' questions and arrange further interviews. Whomever it is, make that point of contact clear. Now you may want to distinguish contact information that's for the press versus for the public. You may not want your personal phone number published in the newspaper, for example. If that's the case, just specify that in the release. Ideally, you should include both a phone number and an e-mail address for contact information. Next, you'll want to craft a compelling descriptive headline. This is not the time to be creative or poetic. Your headline should express key information. If the journalist only reads that headline here, she should still have a general sense of the news you're announcing. The headline should also grab the journalists' attention. If you don't have an interesting headline that's relevant to the reporter, they won't keep reading and find out more information about what you want to share. You can also include a more descriptive sub-headline. That sub-headline spells out information that the headline hasn't. Next, add a dateline. This indicates the place from which the release is coming or where the news took place, as well as the date you're sending the release. Then you'll want to craft an informative first paragraph. Based on the news and the story angle you brainstormed in the previous lesson, write a three-sentence paragraph here. This paragraph should convey the five Ws of your news. Let's talk a little bit more about each of those Ws. First up, who. Who is the press release about? Just your company, or are there other main players involved? Be sure to use your company's proper name and the proper name of any individuals involved in your news here, because the press will be picking up that information potentially for publication. Next up, what. What is the topic of your press release? In other words, what happened? When. When did the subject of the press release or your news take place, or when will it take place? Where. Where's your company located, or where did the news take place? Finally, why. Why did this happen? How does it affect your customers or the readers? Why is it important? You may notice that the remainder of the release will do more to explain the why and the how of your news, but give us a little tease here. Next up, add a quotation. This quotation should provide further information about the impact of this announcement or the context behind it. If you're a solopreneur, this may mean you're quoting yourself. Or if you're drafting your release and planning to quote a C-level executive, you may choose to write the quote and then submit it to him or her for approval. Either way, be sure to attribute your quote so that the press knows who is speaking. You'll want to identify him or her with a name, as well as a title or role within the company. Next, you'll spend the next couple of short one to three sentence paragraphs providing additional information. These paragraphs should explain how this development came about and provide context behind this announcement. Lastly, you'll want to include a call to action. What do you want people to do as a result of this announcement and press release? Are they going to attend an event, buy a product, or look for more information on your website? Tell them what to do after reading your release. Conclude the press release with three hashtags or pound signs centered in the middle of the document. This is a formatting holdover from the days of news wire services, and it indicates to the press that the information has come to a conclusion. But there's one more piece left. At the end of the release, add boilerplate about the company information. This is a one to three sentence explanation that includes the name of your organization, your mission statement, founding dates, company size, and a brief description of what the company does, or who its customers are. Now, it may feel odd to include this information at the end of your release rather than at the beginning. However, it's important to quickly convey your news. You shouldn't risk losing the journalists' attention earlier in the release by putting this information at the top. They're likely to get bogged down and not want to continue to read. Overall, these are the essential components of your press release. Now you should have an understanding of the format and the specific content required within a press release, and you should be able to begin drafting your own press release now. The next lesson will touch on special issues pertaining to releases which will help you edit and refine your release, so just try to create a draft at this point. Don't get too bogged down in perfecting it just yet. When you're ready to begin polishing, join the next lesson. I'll see you there. 5. Polishing Your Press Release: Welcome to the next lesson. In this lesson, we'll go back through most sections of your Press Release to fine tune them. I'll provide insider tips and insights that will help you polish your Release to maximize its impact with journalists. By the end of this lesson, you should have a well-crafted Release that's ready to send to the press. First, you'll want to double-check that you've included correct and complete contact information. You may be surprised to find how many press releases leave this off, much to the consternation of myself and my colleagues. It's particularly troublesome to us because we as journalists want to follow up. We don't know how. If journalists can't quickly and easily follow up on your Release, they may choose not to follow up at all, so that contact information is essential. Next, let's take a deeper look at your headline. Your headline is your opportunity to make a great first impression, and that should be used to hook your reader into reading more. Using a number in your headline when appropriate has been shown to receive more interest, so if possible incorporate a number. Second, you want to use the most important key words in the first part of your headline in particular, within the first 55 to 70 characters. That will ensure that key information isn't cut off when your headline appears as your e-mail subject line. You should also think about how your headline will appear if it's free posted on social media. Is this information clear and the subject matter clear when it's out of context. Also, your headline should be around a 140 characters total, so not long at all. Next, let's take a closer look at your quotation. The quotation should be colorful and descriptive. It should ideally be able to be pulled from the Press Release and incorporated into an article if the journalist chooses to do so. So if you're writing the quote for someone else, make sure it sounds like that person is actually speaking. Jargon and overly flowery language won't impress journalists. Make sure that the quote serves a purpose in the release and helps tell the story. Make sure it's not just extraneous language. Finally, the Boilerplate Company information should remain at the end of your release. Your reader may need a cursory mention of what your company does in the first paragraph. For example, Sugar Plum bakery or the Internet security company, Digital Safety Insurance. However, keep any extended descriptions of your company down in that boilerplate section. Now let's go through your release to polish it overall. First, revisit the news you outlined before you even begin lessons in this course. Have you clearly and concisely communicated your central message in the release that you've drafted? Would a journalist know what you're trying to share? If not, go back and refine. Second, think about the overall structure of the Release. Is the information conveyed in a concise and easy to read way? Have you use short paragraphs? Are there places where a subhead or even bullet points might be useful to express information quickly to busy journalists? Next, try to make sure your Release is as objective as possible. Yes, you're sharing your news and you're probably pretty excited about it. However, readers and journalists will respond better to press releases that impartially share information. So make sure that's the tact you've taken. Next, re-read your Release to eliminate any jargon or industry specific language. If using industry-specific language is required to share your news, make sure that you've explained it concisely so that your Release is as readable as possible. You'll also want to go back through and minimize any adjectives and flowery language. Opt to use details and examples instead. Lastly, you'll want to proofread carefully to avoid grammatical and spelling mistakes. If your news and ideas are solid, having a few errors won't prevent journalists from following up on your release and reporting the story. However, sending out a release free from errors will present a professional image of your business and it will prevent reporters from having a few juggles at your expense. My three favorite tips for proofreading are first, don't write and edit in the same session, put down whatever you're working on, and come back to it later. You'll see it in a new light when you do. Second, ask a colleague to read it over for you. They may be able to spot things that you don't. Last, read it out loud. You'll be able to identify things when you're reading aloud that you can't simply with an eye proofread. To further amplify your release and make sure that it's getting the maximum amount of attention, think about ways to include multimedia. Include a photo or a video if possible and appropriate. In 2016, a PR Newswire study found that press releases that included images received an average of 1.4 times more views than text-only releases. Video releases averaged 2.8 times more views than text-only, which also represented double the engagement of image-based releases. So if you have photos or videos handy to make available to the press, do so. Overall, press releases are relatively easy to create, but they take time and finesse to perfect. The tips provided here will allow you to polish your release now and whenever you choose to craft a Press Release in the future. Now that you've reached the end of this lesson, you should be able to go back and edit your draft Press Release so that it's ready to send out. In the next lesson we'll talk about how and when to follow up on Press Releases once you've sent them. I'll see you there. 6. Following Up on Your Release: Welcome to the next lesson. In this lesson, we'll review the timing of when to send your press release. We'll also discuss the art of the follow-up, including when and how to reach out to the press to ensure your release gets attention. By the end of this lesson, you should have a plan of when to send your release and when to circle back with journalists to solidify that coverage. As we've discussed in previous lessons, you should send your release as far in advance as possible. I frequently observed press releases that aren't sent far enough in advance to generate the kind of coverage that they could. It's a complaint that I hear often from my journalism colleagues. We hear about great stories but not with enough time to cover them, so send your press release early. Sending your press release weeks early is better than days early, which is better than hours early. Even if you're only able to send a preliminary sketch of what's going to occur. Get your news on the media's radar so that outlets can begin to plan coverage around it. Magazines for example, maybe the information several months in advance to generate coverage. While daily TV news outlets can receive the information the morning of or even an hour in advance and still create coverage. If you have some flexibility in the release date and you're not sending out breaking news, remember to aim to get your story out early in the week. Tuesdays are ideal, and Fridays are the day to send your release to get your news buried in weekends. It's certainly okay and many times necessary to follow up on the press release, either prior to an event as a reminder or second, within a reasonable period of time to make sure that the press has received the information. If you're sending out a release announcing an event, you'll want to send it initially as far in advance as possible. But then again, the day of the event as a reminder, when you do this, you can send a new e-mail or resend the original e-mail doesn't matter. In either case, you should include language in the subject line indicating that this is a reminder. You want to clearly indicate to the press that you're not sending new information rather, you're following up on information that's already been released. It's also good to include a few sentences in the form of an e-mail at the top of the release indicating this is a reminder about a timely event that will help get the presses attention and help them treat it appropriately. Now if you've sent out a press release that isn't event-based and doesn't have breaking news, it's also okay to follow up. In terms of timing, you'll want to wait at least a couple of weeks after you've sent the original release to circle back. In this case, you'd want to resend the original e-mail with the press release and it updates the subject line and add a quick note at the top to indicate you're following up on a previously sent message. The email may be something as simple as, I know things get buried sometimes, so I wanted to follow up on the below information. Any interest? If you don't receive coverage from press outlet after you've sent a release. It's not only fine to send a release again in the future. It's highly advised not every release will be a hit for every news outlet, every time. That has less to do with your news, than with the way media works. They may have just covered a story similar to yours and need a wait a bit of time before covering something else in that lane. They may not have any more time or space for that particular issue. Or they may be sitting on your news to include it in a larger trend story. You may not ever know the reason they chose not to cover your news or you haven't heard back in a while. But that doesn't mean you can't follow up or send them other releases in the future. You will want to wait a bit of time before approaching them again. This could be a few weeks or few months. It depends on the outlet, but it mostly depends on your news. You'll want to make sure that you truly have news to report before sending another release. To know what's newsworthy, refer back to the first content lesson about when to send a press release. If you send releases too often, you risk crying wolf. You don't want to risk and media outlets tuning out from your releases because they think that you don't truly have anything to say. When you send the release, you want them to sit up and pay attention. Following up is a necessary process of sending out press releases. When done well, it can earn you press coverage for a single release. But it can also help you and your business establish a working relationships with journalists that will continue to provide media coverage over time. If you've received coverage from a journalist or press outlet, be sure to send them press releases about your company's news again in the future too. You know that outlet is already primed to cover your company because they've done it before. The next time you have something newsworthy to share, do it with a release to them that will demonstrate that your business has exciting things happening consistently and to help generate press coverage on an ongoing basis. For now, let's finish up the process of your press release writing today. You'll want to create a timeline for sending your release. Mark on your calendar when you're going to send out your release, whether it's an advance of an event, a seasonal offering, or just a good time to get your news out. But also note on your calendar when you're going to follow up on those releases. That will help you remember that follow up as an essential part of the press release writing process. In the last video, we'll be reviewing and wrapping things up on your press release writing project. I'll see you there. 7. Wrapping Up: Congrats on making it to the end of this course, How to Write a Press Release. We've covered everything from when a press release can be a useful tool in your media outreach toolbox to crafting a release that will get journalists attention. I walked you through when you should send releases and who you should send them to. Then we dealt into the structure and content of press releases. We also spoke in depth about what to include and how to polish your document so you present a professional level release every time. Then we discussed the importance of following up and I laid out a timetable for you to circle back with journalists to create solid working relationships. If there's one thing I hope you take away from this class, it's this, press releases are valuable components of media outreach strategies. Well, easy to create, they take time to perfect. Luckily, you now have all the knowledge and skills to do that many times over as you send releases to the press now and in the future. Once you've drafted and polished your release, please upload it to the Projects and Resources page here so that we can all take a look and provide feedback. I hope these press releases help you to share your businesses story in the media. Thanks and I'll see you next time.