Guidelines for Press Releases By Janet McCormick
Press Releases are giant marketing resources for niches, ours included. This blog is to help those who realize the infinite worth of PR and take on the challenge to develop this important skill. Press releases can be long standing marketing, though they are released on a one-time basis. “One I did when I opened my studio was still walking in the door in the hands of clients three-four years later,” says Denise Baich, MNT, The Pedicure Plus, St. Louis, MO. (It is in the ANT Program for all of you to see and “emulate.”)
A Press Release (AKA PR) can either propel your company toward success or it may just fall quietly into the circular file. Given the time and efforts you spend on new ideas and business projects, we know you would like your PR results to be movement in the direction of success. For this reason, you must focus on your PRs being high quality. They must include the vital details that will attract your targeted group, while being concise in length.
What is a press release?
A press release (PR) is an unpaid, written announcement sent to the various media outlets who provide newsworthy information to their targeted demographic. For most publications, this group may be in a specific geographic area, though with the explosion of the Internet, this can be a far wider audience than it was just a few years ago.
Your target group is those people your company wants to serve in your business. For example, at Nailcare Academy we only market to professionally licensed nail technicians in the United States, Canada, and other English-speaking countries, and soon, to Spanish-speaking countries, but not to consumers. In contrast, salons market to consumers in their local area who will be interested in their services. They should not market to other nail professionals, nor to consumers outside their area (though on occasions, a salon may have a reason to do so). Rather, they should focus their marketing efforts on their defined demographic’s target group.
A press release is structured in a specific format to support being noticed by the decision makers in their target media (editors of specific sections of publications) who choose which submissions are published. These people are usually under a deadline when they finally know the available space they have for PRs, so they must be very speedy in choosing the news that they want to use. Authors of PR must match their submissions to this format as if it takes more than a quick glance to find what is pertinent, the PR piece will trashed, whether digitally or in-reality.
The format is formal, so take the following information and follow it tightly – until you become aware a particular publication has different requirements. The formats do change over time. For that reason, it is best to go to the Internet and type in “Trends in Press Releases” yearly to see if you wish to make changes in your template. This “now,” though, to help you get started.
A PR Template
A PR template is a unique format the salon has developed to use for their press releases, with all the areas that can be pre-written prepared. It can be developed/designed prior to sending out as the first press release, and then, from that time on any PR will be easily developed when the opportunity arises to send one out. The author just pulls it up, follows the format and then off it goes!
I don’t recommend sending out your first PR until it is right because editors in small publications have a long memory for wasted time. They may never look at your PR later, if a messy one is sent. Practice-makes-perfect is not good here. Take your time and do it right. From the start. From then on, it will be easy. I promise, so hunker down and do the elbow grease to get it done right. For the first one.
A press release should contain certain specific information which will always be expected: A introduction paragraph that quickly hooks the reader’s interest and answers the Who, What, Where, When Why questions. These will always be required in all submissions.
The next paragraphs need to be constructed to support the intro’s newsworthy angle – in your letters or posts, these paragraphs are called “the body”. There should be two to three body paragraphs, with hyperlinks, social media links, quotes, and multimedia.
The final paragraph should be a conclusion with information about your organization (your boilerplate) and contact information. The total length of the press release should be between 300 and 500 words. Further nuances will be discussed later.
The General Outline of a Press Release
- The letterhead (The basis of your communications: your logo, address and email address or phone number, etc.), the background (See “
- The contact information of the person responsible for the PRs
- The release date (often stated as “For Immediate Release” or a specified date)
- Headline (the “hook”)
- Subhead (or sometimes called “the deck” – a short intro statement)
- Stamp – place and date (the first words of the first body paragraph)
- Body paragraphs (your content and the last one is the company bio, the boilerplate)
- Boilerplate (a standard mini-bio, gives readers clear description of your business
- Conclusion and call to action (summarizes and invites the reader to take an action)
- End notation (3 hash marks which indicates the end of the PR has been reached)
Attachments are also important – a
The letterhead is a set sheet of paper with background information used for all your communications, including press releases. It should include elements that become immediately identifiable to your unique business. It is the “carrier” or “foundation” of your press release and all other communications.
The Contact Information
Understand that this may be different than the number listed on the Letterhead. It should be specific for the contact person. If it is the same, it still should be there in the format suggested to keep it easy for the editor to find. Written in Times New Roman font – it’s the tradition – the information for your person to contact is at the top and single spaced, to the left. It includes the name of the person who can answer questions about this information and their contact information. Here is how it should be listed:
Contact: Janet McCormick
Many persons do not put the website here as it is already on the letterhead. We do, as I feel many editors want to take a quick peek at who their PR is from and it is more quickly found when listed with the other contact information. Some companies add the company address below the telephone number. It is optional, especially since it is on the base letterhead.
The Release Date
A release statement indicates when you want your press release news to be published by the publication. If your press release is to be distributed by them right away, include the words “FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE” in all caps at the top of your press release below the contact information, centered or to the left.
If you want the press release held for a later publish date, the delay is termed an “embargoed” release. Put the words “Embargoed for Release” in the top left-hand corner, bolded, and then add the date and time you want it released.
A headline or title, is the next item at the top of your press release, centered, and below the release date. It is bolded and written in headline-style capitalization, also called title case, meaning important words are capitalized and the other words are lowercased, such as, articles (a, an, the), coordinating conjunctions (and, but, for), short (fewer than 4 letters), and prepositions (at, by, to, etc.) An Example,
Nailcare Academy Provides Payment Plans for Purchasers
Your headline should be short and to the point, in 14-point size, but should be compelling enough to hook the editor into reading it immediately for more interest. It should tell the editor that his or her readers will want to know this information so they will be more likely to publish it.
Try to stay on one line of a traditional 8.5” x 11” page – 65-70 characters range is ideal, though difficult, since internet algorithms will chop off longer titles. Some authors will go as high as 125, especially if there are no subtitles (horrors!). The editor can often see the entire title when scrolling if it is sixty-five or below. The sample above is 54.
This is an expansion of the headline and will tell more of the story. A stressed and pressed editor will many times only read the headline and the subhead before deciding to publish a PR so write them carefully. Then, they will read the rest when PR editing.
The subhead is a “teaser” statement and can be more than one sentence, written in sentence-style. Many authors write them in title case, others do not (me) because title case is more difficult to read without concentrating, and editors are not in that mode at first sight. The font for the subhead is 12 pts Times New Roman and in Italics.
The 5th Edition of the Advanced Nail Technician Program has new topics, new voicing and great tips for success for nail technicians.
Stamp, Place and Date
At the start of the first paragraph, the city location the PR is coming from and the date it was written, in bold. Both location and date is bolded containing City, State. (Month, Day, Year) followed by a hyphen – For example, Fort Myers, FL September 30, 2021 – After the hyphen, the first content paragraph begins immediately.
The Body Paragraphs
The First Paragraph
A good editor will read the title, subhead and first paragraph of a press release when making the choices of which ones to use, then save the rest for when editing to space. The first sentence should mention the name of the company submitting the PR. For that reason, the first paragraph should state the ole’ Who, What, Where, When and Why of the PR angle being evaluated by the editor. If necessary, it can go to two paragraphs, but try to get this intro all in the first one. It should be bare facts with no hype or sales pitches. It should be no more than three-four sentences.
The next paragraphs are the rest-of-the-story part of the press release, or the body. They should provide the editor and readers the details of the newsworthy angle about which you are writing. They should also elaborate on them so the editor can use them if a story (or article) comes out from the PR – many times it does.
Use short paragraphs, two to four sentences of no more than twenty-five words – ever. It is great to include statistics and graphics to back up your story, if possible. Bullet points are also good.
Quotes are always a positive in a press release. If you are writing about a service in the salon, quote a client (with his/her permission, of course). If you are announcing a new employee, quote him/her. Something about how pleased they are to be there, blah-blah. An example of how to write a quote and its signature follows:
“We believe nail technicians and their services are significant to the wellness of their clients’ hands and feet,” says Janet McCormick, co-founder of Nailcare Academy.
The signature is an acknowledgement of who made the statement, where they work/title (optional), and their city and state location, if it is different than the stamp city/state. In the remaining quotes from the person only the last name is needed. For example:
McCormick states, “We often travel to teach in-person classes in Nailcare Academy partner schools.”
Use words like “says” or “states” or “shares” and it is preferable to identify the speaker alternatively at the beginning of the quote, rather than at the end every time.
Conclusion and Call to Action
The next body paragraph is a brief summary of the unique angle or idea or offering you are presenting and a “Call to Action” which is sometimes referred to as a CTA, though the author must take care in not using a sales pitch – this is news, not sales. A statement about how this new idea would benefit the reader is good. Try to get them to see themselves trying or taking advantage of your offering.
In the last paragraph of the body, the company is briefly described. This paragraph brings the editor and reader a snapshot of the company in the way the company wishes to be seen. This paragraph is an overview and is the “About You” section of the press release. It should be factual, not a sales pitch, and short, while providing the information.
This paragraph should be less than 50 to a maximum of one hundred words. It is recommended you have a standard description of your business – something along the lines of “XXX company focuses on …”.
This paragraph can be standard, used in every PR, or a new one written to fit the information; it is optional. Nailcare Academy does not use a standard template as we customize our boilerplate information according to the body text and reserve this section to include hyperlinks to any companies mentioned in the press release.
The signal for the end of the press release is traditionally centered two spaces below the Boilerplate as three-pound signs, ### or the word END in the same place. This tells the media editor “this is the end of the press release.” If by chance the release is longer than one page, put “-more-“at the end of the first page, and then the three hashmarks are placed at the end after the boilerplate.
After signaling the end of the press release with the hashtags of the word “Ends” in bold, write “For further information, please contact” and list your details or those of an appointed person. A mobile number is good for the designated person, if you can, so that journalists can contact him or her easily. Italicized for ease in finding, it can be a ten font, if necessary for space. Example:
For further information about Nailcare Academy and the courses, go to www.nailcare-academy.com, contact Janet at 863-273-9134 or email Janet@nailcare-academy.com
Attachments – Artwork
The final segment of a PR is the attachments. Make a short statement such as “Images Attached” or “Attachments” after the end notation, to the left margin.
Submitting artwork is viewed favorably by editors. They are more likely to publish a PR that includes something that enhances the story visually. A smiling face of the client being served, a logo, a head shot of the person being featured, and so forth. We recommend always submitting a downloadable file with your logo and at the least a headshot of someone who represents the business or is being featured in the story.
If you do send a picture or logo attachment, be sure it is highest resolution possible. You may need to open your original images inside a photo editor and click on “resize” and make them bigger files so the resolution is richer.
For higher acceptance and publication, it is suggested the press release be only one page. PRs should never be more than two pages – one page is best. Many editors bypass longer PRs due to their time constraints – press releases are the last portions of the publication composed and time is a stress for set up at this point.
Digital press releases are the norm in these times so the “one page only” dictate can be sometimes ignored or stretched…… But it is not recommended.
Since most media wants their PRs sent by email (out of thirty-two magazines we send PRs to, only one insists it be sent by land mail) be certain to research to direct your PR to the correct email address.
Hyperlinks for the company submitting the PR is usually restricted to the Boilerplate section unless it is highly relevant to the topic being written in the body content Those for other companies can be in other paragraphs, if relevant to the topic. Nailcare Academy’s is usually in the body somewhere because we are an online education company.
Google does not track hyperlinks in press releases for Google page placement or for searching, so do not include them, if that is a consideration.
If you hire a press service to do your distribution, read and follow their guidelines closely before sending in the press release. If you do not, they consider you uncooperative, amateur and other unattractive characteristics, and may become less helpful – even if you’re paying them!
Multimedia in a press release increases reader engagement by threefold on platforms like social media, blogs, and even print outlets. It may not be a place to go at the start of your PR adventure, however, and do understand that it increases distribution pricing by services by a few hundred dollars per PR. Also, the learning curve is something to consider. Again, carefully research publication requirements for all media submitted, especially for video or sound files.
Suggestion: Read your press release aloud to yourself and you will define its flow and find the grammar mistakes more easily. Good flow and grammar are important in any PR.
Document Settings and Support
The margins of the press release are all set at one inch around the content to support readability for the editor as well as their notes. Cheating to get to one page is frowned upon…
Until PR became digital, the body paragraphs were double spaced, but now they should be single spaced – this is easily changed by the editor if double spacing is a preference.
The font requirements are traditionally Times New Roman or another traditional serif font such as Cambria or Georgia.
This document is in Georgia.
Times New Roman would look similar but is smaller.
Do not get fancy and change from traditional choices! It is considered arrogant or amateur.
Stick to the traditional format, as described above, so the editor can go right to a particular area for needed information.
Once you compose your press releases and are satisfied with them, publish them in PDF formats. PDFs used to be considered difficult to work with, but now they are the universal language between Windows and Apple users and the media (they all have translators).
Spell check! And then check them closely. Many times spell check turn out weird! Also. download a grammar software to provide support for your writing. They help! Many are available for free. Keep in mind, however – they may not understand nuances of our industry and attempt to change the words to “norm,” so read everything closely. And have someone else read it, though if you are me, it makes me nervous for others to see my writing early on. It’s wise to do so, though, and you can get both good and bad advice in doing so. Choose carefully who you want to critique you!
When to Send your PR
I pay close attention to this, as silly as it seems:
Avoid Wednesdays, Fridays and weekends.
Avoid afternoons after 2PM and early mornings.
Keep in mind time zones when choosing a time to send to each media company.
Pick a unique time other than on the hour and half hour.
The best time for sending PR is between 10AM and 2PM.
Go for it!
Press releases are the least expensive but most results-oriented marketing a small business can do. Even though writing PR scares many business owners/managers away from doing them, those who bite the bullet and go for it give their business priceless exposure with zero cost. If you try writing one by merely following the rules stated here in this article you can move past that intimidation. Also, know the Internet contains a huge amount of information on how to write them.
So, define an angle and practice – it is no more different than any other skill you had to learn for your profession. Have no fear, just go for it! You will be glad you did!