We’re going to share a few of the best practices about writing a press release along with some pointers and tips to make sure you don’t stumble out of the gate. The topics we’ll cover include:
- What Is a Press Release?
- What Makes a Press Release Great?
- Rules of the Press Release: Basic Formatting
- Closing Thoughts
By the time you’ve finished reading, trust us: you’ll be able to throw together a press release with ease.
What Is a Press Release?
At its simplest, a press release is a short news article designed either to be shared as-is by a media outlet or to inspire a separate article or profile. While it might appear that a business that shares a press release with the media is asking for free coverage, the truth is more complicated.
Journalists are tasked with finding stories to write about, so any that come to them can potentially make their lives a lot easier. And given that the typical journalist has hundreds of emails awaiting them each morning, a well-crafted press release can be just the thing to flag a busy journalist’s attention. As a recent “State of the Media” white paper by Cision found:
“63% of global respondents said press releases were the preferred vehicle of news conveyance and 44% of journalists also trust press releases the most, with 44% saying that it’s their most trustworthy source of brand-related information.’”
What Makes a Press Release Great?
Even though you may have an ulterior motive in sending out a press release—drumming up business for your dispensary—an effective press release is built around a genuine item of news. What might that be?
Here are three things to consider:
Does this story have an impact: Is someone going to be affected by this information?
Does it have immediacy: Is this urgent news?
Is there recognition: Does the story concern a well-known person, news item or current event?
If you can check at least two of these questions off, you’ve got a very solid leg to stand on. If not, you may want to keep digging for a deeper nugget.
Here are some examples of this rule in action. Let’s start with two possible ideas for a press release:
Example 1: HighBuddz Dispensary announces 10% off all dabs next month. In-store party featuring local artists.
Example 2: This weekend, Electric Gardener launches a new citywide delivery service. Acclaimed rapper “Tite Bro” will hand-deliver the first, twenty-fifth, and fiftieth orders to lucky customers.
Let’s run them through the three questions above. Do these story ideas have an impact?
Example 1: Not much. Announcing the event of a sale has little reach outside the circle of existing customers.
Example 2: Yes. Even a delivery service spanning a small city could potentially serve tens of thousands of customers.
Do these story ideas have immediacy?
Example 1: Again, not a great deal. Announcing next month’s sale isn’t particularly newsworthy. When is the party?
Example 2: Yes. The launch of the service is imminent; even a skeptical new piece (“Can they pull it off?”) might generate increased attention and buzz.
Do these story ideas have recognition?
Example 1: No. Announcing “local artists” is vague and unintriguing.
Example 2: That depends in part upon “Tite Bro’s” public profile, but the fact that there’s a named performer gives the event tangibility and focus, even if the media outlets you’re sending to don’t know who “Tite Bro” is (that’s okay, neither do we).
Once you’ve settled on a newsworthy item to write about, it’s time to flesh it out with necessary details. Remember, your event is aimed at journalists and media outlets, so you should try and think like one.
Take a moment to think about the “5 W’s” of journalism:
- Who: Which specific people or companies are (or were) involved?
- What: What exactly is going to (or has) happen(ed)?
- Where: Where will (or did) this event take place?
- When: When will (or did) the event occur?
- Why: Last but definitely not least, why is this information important to the media outlet’s readers?
If you can clearly answer these and the earlier questions we proposed—does the story have impact, immediacy, and recognition?—awesome. The hard part is done—the rest is just filling in the blanks.
Rules of the Press Release: Basic Formatting
Press releases are expected to follow a basic style, and it’s best not to deviate from it in order to project and maintain authority. While a press release should generally not exceed a single page, do your best to include all these sections in order:
Headline: A title that clearly explains what the release is about, whether it’s a product launch, a change in ownership, or a free block party
Location: Where is the press release and where will (or did) the event take place? This is printed in a specific style, typically like this: “TARZANA, California, Feb. 20, 2020:”
Lead: This is first and that most important paragraph. It summarizes the information from the story.
Body: The next 2 or 3 paragraphs contain more detailed information in decreasing importance
Boilerplate: A short paragraph which describes your company to the audience
Press Contact: Name and contact details of your media coordinator, dispensary manager, or anyone the reporter can get in touch with for more information.
If this seems confusing, don’t worry. A picture is worth a thousand words, they say. Here’s an example of an effective press release.
Here are some things to keep in mind as you plan your press release. Even if the first few don’t end up getting picked up, sooner or later you’ll probably have one distributed, especially as you grow in skill and confidence. As The Sword and the Script media blog put it:
“If you write a newsworthy press release and pitch it to the right people at the right time, your chances of coverage go up. More importantly, PR learns to do this by researching reporters and publications prior to pitching, which is timeless advice reporters give out freely year after year and study after study.”
Be prepared once this happens. Have backlinks pointing to your dispensary website embedded (great for SEO, by the way) and while we’re on the subject, seed your press release with keywords relating to your business.
As the above quote suggests, finding whom to pitch press releases to is vital. Cultivate contacts in your local media outlets and your chances will only increase further.
Of course, if you decide you’re not up for crafting press releases yourself, there’s a resource you can always call upon: MediaJel. We’ve written hundreds of compelling and effective press releases themselves, and we’ve helped countless dispensaries make it to the top. Schedule a strategy session now!