press release formatting

A press release is a press release is a … wait, stop! No, it isn’t. Different companies use different formats. Press releases are customized for different platforms. That is, a press release that goes on a company’s website has to be customized for SEO or search engine optimization. Let’s take this just one step further. Different industries have formats they use. Confused yet?

Here at Express Writers, the Press Release writing team has a standardized format writers have to use. If you get brave enough to branch out and start writing press releases for private clients or other writing companies, you’ll need to have a little familiarity with the different formats you might be expected to know and use.

The Express Writers Format

When you joined the Press Release team, you probably studied the different formats the management team sent to you – at least, you should have. Why? Some things in the EW format are a little different from other company formats. For one thing, EW press release writers have to copy a screenshot of the client’s logo into the press release before submitting it to the editors at Express Writers.

Here’s a few other differences:
The contact information isn’t placed at the top, above the embargo information. Instead, it’s placed just above the “End” or ### and below the company’s information.

Another difference – Express Writers includes a summary paragraph just under the headline. This summary paragraph should summarize the topic of the press release in short, sweet (a maximum of 5 sentences) so readers can get an idea of the gist of the press release.

Publicity Insider
Let’s look at a sample format from Publicity Insider. This website writes the following about what press releases are: “a pseudo-news story.” Well, yes. It’s not hard news. Instead the company and the press release writer – you – are working to generate interest from news outlets like newspapers, radio stations, press release websites and even some television stations, so they will make public the press release you wrote. Nervous yet? Don’t be! All you’re doing is demonstrating the newsworthiness about a product, service, event or person. Whew! “But that’s such a tall order!”

Yes, it is. You need to convince the news outlets that your press release is more worthy of publicity than the story about, oh, the park that just got a new children’s playground equipment.

Like EW, this format includes a company logo. The embargo information is justified on the right side, directly opposite from the contact information. Next is the headline. Here, though, it’s all in upper case. If there’s a subtitle, this is written in Title Case.

Next is the body of the press release. See what’s different from the EW format? There’s no summary paragraph. Shake the confusion off, because it’s time to look at another format.

Press Release from Copyblogger
Copyblogger approaches press releases from the “crochet hook” format. This example tells writers to “craft a hook.” Seriously! It suggests thinking of a snappy song beat or chorus – you know those earworms you love so much.

Here, you need to research past press releases written by the company and its competitors. Find out which ones have been published and use them as a guideline for writing your own press release. As you study them, think of how you can write the most compelling story – work to grab the public’s interest. Take time with the headline. You know what they say about first impressions. This is your only shot. Sorry! Didn’t mean to scare you!

Your lead paragraph should be full of the concept because neither readers or reporters care about the company’s brand. They want to read a good story. Steer clear of industry jargon. Your audience has to easily understand what you write.

Include videos and photos, along with links to source materials so reporters can get all the material they need for an in-depth report. After proofing for errors and making corrections (your release must be free of errors) send it out.

Various Industry Formats

Let’s look at a few industry formats:
The banking industry format is similar to the Publicity Insider’s format. In fact, it looks more like a straight news story, quotations and all.

Next, the book release format is sort of similar to the Publicity Insider format, but the contact information is at the bottom – like Express Writers.  The education format is like the book release format. It starts with the “who, what, why, when, where and how” meat of the information. This is the most important part, so it goes up close to the top. Why? Because readers have a very short attention span. You, as the press release writer, have to grab their attention and interest within about 50 words. OK calm down! Take a few breaths and sit back down.

Oooh, let’s look at a press release for an entertainment company. It has an all-caps headline and the subtitle. Here, only the first letter of the first word is capitalized. Every word following is in all lower-case. It has the dateline, or the cities and date with an em-dash, then the first paragraph. It’s written in “inverted pyramid” style, with the most important information at the top. This way, if an editor has to chop the release for space, at least the most important information made it into print or broadcast news. Company information and media contact information is located at the bottom, just above the three-pound sign symbol that signifies the end of the press release.

Now, let’s look at a human resources industry release. It has a Title Case headline, the city/date dateline, and em-dash. This one includes bullet points for emphasis so readers can pick out information important to them. At the bottom, a website for more information, the company information and the contact information are at the bottom, just above the three-pound sign symbol. Study the press release examples from different websites and industries.