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The Classic Press Release Template

A simple document with much history.

Cover photo: @jerrysilfwer

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.

Here we go:

The First-Ever Press Release

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

The acci­dent was a tragedy for every­one involved but poten­tially 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 then, he invited the press to the acci­dent scene. 

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 send the release to journ­al­ists before­hand, “EMBARGOED UNTIL …”. 

Remember that journ­al­ists can 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 of 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, 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?

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

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 will add one 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 parts described above.

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

Please sup­port my blog by shar­ing it with oth­er PR- and com­mu­nic­a­tion pro­fes­sion­als. For ques­tions or PR sup­port, con­tact me via jerry@​spinfactory.​com.

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.

The Cover Photo

The cover photo has nothing to do with public relations, of course. I share for no other reason that I happen to enjoy photography. Call it an “ornamental distraction”—and a subtle reminder to appreciate nature.

The cover photo has


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