The Classic Press Release Template

A simple document with much history.

Cover photo by Jerry Silfwer (Instagram)

Looking for a classic press release template?

This blog article will walk you through the basics of the classic press release template—and some of its history, too.

Here we go:

Table of Contents

    The First-Ever Press Release

    In 1906, near Gap, Pennsylvania, a terrible train accident killed 50+ people.

    The accident was, of course, a tragedy for everyone involved, but potentially also a disaster for the Pennsylvania Railroad. They retained one of the first public relations agencies, Parker & Lee.

    The agency had been founded only a year before the accident in 1905 as the third PR agency in the US.

    One of the founders, the legendary PR professional Ivy Lee, wanted to help the Pennsylvania Railroad, his first major client, get the right story out. Hence, Lee created the first-ever press release. And rather than trying to suppress the story, which would’ve been standard practice at this time, he invited the press to the scene of the accident.

    Ivy Lee - Public Relations
    Ivy Lee.

    Despite the unfortunate accident, the Pennsylvania Railroad got good press coverage for managing the disaster well.

    Keeping the press, and by extension, the general public, up to date with an official statement is still something we should strive to do.

    So, how do you write a classic press release?

    The Classic Press Release Template

    The classic press release format is by no means rocket science (even though there are plenty of bad press release habits out there). The secret is not to include sales jargon, qualifiers, and superlatives.

    Classic Press Release Template - Public Relations
    The standard press release.

    Download the classic press release template (zip file contains pdf, pages, and docx).

    Release Note and Contact Information

    You’ve probably seen it, “FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE.” It’s a legal thing (it shows that this information is intended for distribution), and it also works like a placeholder in your template (this is where it says “DRAFT” or “DO NOT DISTRIBUTE” while you’re collaborating with your colleagues before releasing the information. We can also use it if you’re sending out the release to journalists beforehand, “EMBARGOED UNTIL …”.

    Remember that journalists are free to disregard your “embargoed” press release and publish the information immediately. 1You could get a journalist to sign an NDA (non-disclosure agreement), but not all journalists accept embargoes. Conversely, the journalist can never be 100% sure when a PR professional promises … Continue reading.

    Date and Location

    You should include the date of sending the press release out. It sometimes makes sense to add the city from which the press release originates for global wire releases. Both the date and the city are often added right before the intro.

    Headline and Summary

    The headline should include the brand name and be descriptive rather than witty or intelligent. Press release titles can be very long, though. The idea is to give the reader the full scope just from reading the title. The title is often bold and more prominent, but this won’t work for plain-text wire releases.

    Also, press releases in English often have all important words capitalised, but this is often confusing for non-English speakers. Writing the headline in all-caps solves both of these problems.

    The intro should summarise the news hook in 1-2 sentences. This part is usually the most difficult to write; it should include everything in the headline and add more detail and context.

    Focus the headline and the summary on the underlying conflict. Remember the adage, “news is something that someone doesn’t want to see in print.”

    Content and Quotes

    Their content consists of descriptive paragraphs and quotes. A good rule of thumb is to alternate between them. If your first paragraph under the intro is a quote, the next one should be a descriptive paragraph, and then a quote again, and so on.

    Also: If any of your sentences are longer than 25 words, consider shortening them.

    An excellent way to start is to answer five basic questions:

    • Who?
    • What?
    • When?
    • Where?
    • Why?

    When it comes to formatting, you could turn your press release into an interactive microsite with mouse-over effects and pop-up tooltips. But for the most critical use cases (news aggregators, plain-text email send-outs, wire services like PRNewswire or PRweb etc.), your press release must work in the plain, unformatted text.

    Writing quotes often takes some getting used to. Here are a few good rules:

    • Avoid qualifiers (good, great, unique, impressive, perfect, solid, etc.).
    • Avoid expressing emotions.
    • Write in a speaking voice.

    Your boilerplate shouldn’t be cute or cool, just informative. Most organisations have standardised boilerplates, but if I can, I make sure to add a boilerplate that works well with the press release content.

    “Only two things will survive global warming: cockroaches and boilerplates.”
    — Ann Wylie

    The Hashes

    Signal the end of the news item by adding three consecutive hash signs, “###”. Your press release should ideally fit on one page but never be longer than two pages (unformatted)—including all the different parts described above.

    Download the classic press release template (zip file contains pdf, pages, and docx).

    1 You could get a journalist to sign an NDA (non-disclosure agreement), but not all journalists accept embargoes. Conversely, the journalist can never be 100% sure when a PR professional promises exclusivity. A traditional honour system characterises the relationship.
    Jerry Silfwer
    Jerry Silfwer
    Jerry Silfwer, alias Doctor Spin, is an awarded senior adviser specialising in public relations and digital strategy. Currently CEO at KIX Index and Spin Factory. Before that, he worked at Kaufmann, Whispr Group, Springtime PR, and Spotlight PR. Based in Stockholm, Sweden.



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