How long should you write a press release?
Updated: Feb 16
I would argue, based on having read and written at least 100,000 releases as both a journalist and media relations troubleshooter, length or word count isn’t very important.
What does matter, to a journalist, is how you select and organise your information.
Often I’ve seen press releases which put it all out there and when I’ve asked the writer why they’ve taken this approach they’ve said they want to be ‘transparent’ or to ‘help the journalist find a story’.
For the journalist this isn’t helpful. You look like an unreliable source and Hard Work.
For the business it is extremely risky. You aren’t really pitching anything. You’ve effectively handed over control of your business reputation to somebody whose only context for your business is what you’ve put in your release. They don’t work for you, you’re not going to get ‘story approval’ for editorial. You are effectively expecting the journalist to do your work. And this is, truthfully, your Only Opportunity to control your story. The press release is the only part of the media relations process where you create the story you want to see. After it's gone you give over control. You can use the press release to steer a journalist back to what you want during the negotiations, any interviews, but I cannot impress enough how this is the place to take a leading role.
So, it’s not so much a question of cutting down the length of your press release. It’s not ever putting an information dump in there in the first place!
A much more efficient way to work is to first identify your overarching business story and turn it into approximately 50 words. Then put that at the bottom of your page titled About [insert the name of your business]. And keep this consistent across all your releases. That gives the journalist context for who you are as a source and, importantly for your business, a cut-and-paste way to describe you.
Then with this in place you are ready to tackle the story of your press release. Is this story aligned to your overarching business story, does it make sense for you to tell it?
Then set it out with a strong quote from your business leader (CEO, founder) in the third paragraph which can also be cut and pasted or unpacked. This shows the journalist exactly what sort of things your business will speak directly about.
Write your headline last, making sure it crunches down what you cover in the opening paragraph.
It is this construction, these elements, this pattern which is the priority for your business, not length. This is your blueprint. Your chance to keep your story on track as it makes its way into media coverage.