Press Releases Aren’t Dead — But Do You Need One?
No, press releases aren’t dead. Despite what many PR pros say, the news release is still a reliable tool for sharing information with media. In fact, when I share information without a press release, the first question many reporters ask is, “Do you have a press release I can look at?”
So the press release is here to stay. But do you need a press release for your announcement? What announcements work best? And how do you write an effective press release? Let’s take a closer look.
What is a press release
A press release is a formal document from an organization or brand that communicates “newsworthy” information. What qualifies as newsworthy can mean different things to different people. But, in most cases, a press release is used to announce things like:
- A new product
- A new hire
- A new company milestone
- A new partnership, etc.
Now, not every new partnership or milestone might be worthy of a standalone press release. But this gives you a good overview of when to potentially develop one.
Do you need a press release?
How do you determine, from your list of product and partner news, whether or not you need a press release? For me, there are six questions I keep in mind — and ask my clients to keep in mind — when considering a release:
- What’s your story?
- What’s the business impact of the story?
- What’s the news? (What’s news that will get someone to write about the story?)
- What assets do you have to tell this story? (Clients, product, personnel, data, etc.)
- Who’s the target for your release?
- What are your goals for the release?
Many clients tell me they want to put a press release out about X or Y. But when we start working through these questions together, it quickly becomes clear that the announcement isn’t press-release-worthy. Perhaps the story is soft or there are no assets yet.
With that in mind, feel free to download our own press release background document here. We provide this to clients to share with their internal teams. It helps them decide whether or not a press release makes sense for a given announcement.
How to write a press release
There is no exact formula or format for a release. But you can check out this Forbes piece for guidance or take a look at these press release templates from HubSpot. They can give you the basics.
More broadly, here are best practices that I keep in mind when writing a release:
Lead with your news — Your headline and subhead are critical. No one will read your release if you don’t start with immediate impact. Don’t save the best parts. Forcefully lean into your story.
Keep it tight — Press releases are often overlong. Brands pack them with extraneous messaging and information. But it’s best to keep releases hyper-focused on your news and why it matters. Anything else is just filler.
Steer clear of jargon — A press release speaks to a number of audiences. Current clients, prospects, media, analysts, influencers, and employees. Relying on too much company or industry jargon can limit opportunities across these groups.
Be consistent — Brand messaging shouldn’t vary from release to release. Some brands will tweak and tinker with their descriptor or boilerplate over and over again. This can hurt your SEO and confuse readers who regularly follow the company.
Where to distribute a release
There are two primary points of distribution for a press release. First is your own website or blog, where you can drive traffic through paid advertising, email newsletter or social media.
Another option is a newswire service. A newswire distribution service has paid relationships with hundreds or thousands of news websites. Examples include Cision’s PR Newswire, GlobeNewswire and PRWeb. Those relationships allow you to immediately scale a release and drive traffic to it through sheer volume. Newswire distributions also end up being discoverable in Google News searches, which amplifies your news. The biggest benefit of a newswire service is the SEO value.
There is a debate over whether or not paid newswire distribution is worth it today, especially as costs increase. After all, most media won’t find your press release through a newswire distribution but through one-to-one outreach. My recommendation is to evaluate newswire distribution on a case-by-case basis. If it’s a “big” announcement, it’s likely worth the spend. If it’s a smaller one, or if you make multiple announcements in a single month, using owned media on your company site or blog is probably a better use of your PR budget.