How to Format Your Press Release
Every day, the wires are flooded with press releases. We offer lots of advice on how to make your press release stand out from the crowd. However, there is one way that is the fast track to having your press release ignored, and that is formatting it incorrectly. Do not underestimate the importance of proper formatting. The details matter. You want your audience to know you are a professional, so don’t fall into the trap of producing a press release that screams “AMATEUR” because of formatting mistakes.
Here is a simple guide to help you format your release correctly.
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- Make sure your headline is concise, attention-grabbing and clearly summarizes your main message. Your headline is your opportunity to make a great first impression on your audience.
- Optionally, you can write a sub-headline to expand on your headline a bit. It should add to (not restate) the information in your headline.
- Below this, and immediately preceding your text, write a correctly formatted dateline. Your dateline should include city, state, month, day and year. It will be separated from the main text of your press release by a dash (-). A dateline gives your audience a unique sense of time and place and is a very important element in a press release.
- Now write the first paragraph of your release. Remember that this needs to keep your audience’s attention and to clearly state the 5Ws (who, what, where, when, why) and H (how). The purpose of your first paragraph is to let them know the most important details about your event, product or service in as few words as possible.
- In the remainder of the text, expand on your points clearly. Keep your target audience in mind. Write it entirely in the third person; don’t use the words “I” or “you” except in a direct quote. Keep a journalistic tone; do not make it sound like you’re selling something. Avoid exaggerated and excessive language and stick to factual information. Try using some quotes to show the human side of the company that you represent.
- Your final paragraph should include facts about your company and what it does. This part of the release is very straightforward but important. You can also finish with a brief suggestion to visit the company's website or social media page or an offer to respond to questions via email. This provides an opportunity to connect with your audience potentially long after the press release is a thing of the past.
If it’s done the right way, a press release is a fantastic tool to get your message across to prospective clients. Don’t waste this great opportunity. Make sure you take the time to use this tool exactly the right way. The results for some extra attention to detail now can be hugely rewarding in the long run.