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Press Release Definition & Meaning

A press release is an official statement sent to the news media for the purpose of announcing something newsworthy, providing information, or making an official statement. It is typically written by a public relations (PR) official and is traditionally composed of nine structural elements:

  • Letterhead or logo
  • Media contact information for the PR official making the announcement
  • Headline
  • Dek: Subheadline that describes the headline in more detail
  • Dateline
  • Introduction
  • Body
  • Boilerplate: Background information about the company, organization, or individual
  • Close: Typically three number signs (###) centered directly above the boilerplate to indicate no further information is to come.

Why press releases are written

The purpose of a press release is to pique the interest of a journalist or publication, make news, and generate publicity. It's a cost-effective form of marketing that is used to create brand awareness among a target audience. For the media corporations that publish news via press releases, it can decrease costs and improve the quality and amount of material it publishes.

While a press release is seen as a marketing tool, it is not guaranteed to create the attention the company hopes for. If the press release is not released to the right audience—for instance, a press release about a hair care salon being sent to journalists who specialize in information technology—it will not gain any publicity.

How to write a press release

In addition to following the nine elements of the press release listed above, it's important it contains essential information so that media publications will be able to produce a story without digging through unnecessary content. It answers the questions "who," "what," "when," "where," "why," and "how."

The headline of the press release should contain only action verbs and be descriptive. This is the first thing a media company or journalist sees, so it must be intriguing and newsworthy. After the main questions are answered in the introduction, a quote from a key stakeholder or someone directly impacted by the announcement should be placed in the press release.

In the boilerplate, summarize the "who" and the "what" and make sure the language is plain and straightforward.

Types of press releases

Press releases are most often written by organizations when: 

  • A new product launches
  • A merger or acquisition takes place
  • An update to a product is released
  • A large event happens
  • A grand opening occurs
  • New partnerships form
  • A company rebrands
  • An executive is promoted or hired
  • A company or individual receives an award

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