The Press Release Template

A simple document with much history.

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Looking for a 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:

Ivy Lee and the First Press Release

Ivy Lee - Doctor Spin - The PR Blog
Ivy Lee (July 16, 1877 – November 9, 1934). Image: Wikipedia
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Ivy Lee and the First Press Release

In 1906, in Atlantic City, New Jersey, a ter­rible train acci­dent drowned 53 people. 11906 Atlantic City train wreck. (2023, December 24). In Wikipedia. https://​en​.wiki​pe​dia​.org/​w​i​k​i​/​1​9​0​6​_​A​t​l​a​n​t​i​c​_​C​i​t​y​_​t​r​a​i​n​_​w​r​eck

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. 2Ivy Lee. (2024, January 1). In Wikipedia. https://​en​.wiki​pe​dia​.org/​w​i​k​i​/​I​v​y​_​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 Ledbetter Lee, wanted to help the Pennsylvania Railroad, his first major cli­ent, get the right story out. Hence, Lee cre­ated the first-ever press release. 3The First Press Release. (2016, April 10). News Museum. https://​www​.news​mu​seum​.pt/​e​n​/​s​p​i​n​-​w​a​l​l​/​f​i​r​s​t​-​p​r​e​s​s​-​r​e​l​e​ase

Rather than try­ing to sup­press the story, which would’ve been stand­ard prac­tice then, he invited the press to the acci­dent scene. 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 the PR industry strives to do. 4Morris, T. (2014, August 25). Ivy Lee and the ori­gins of the press release. PR Academy; PR Academy. https://​pracademy​.co​.uk/​i​n​s​i​g​h​t​s​/​i​v​y​-​l​e​e​-​a​n​d​-​t​h​e​-​o​r​i​g​i​n​s​-​o​f​-​t​h​e​-​p​r​e​s​s​-​r​e​l​e​a​se/

Ivy Lee - First Press Release - New York Times - Doctor Spin - The PR Blog
Statement in The New York Times.

Learn more: Ivy Lee and the First Press Release

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The Press Release Template

Classic Press Release Template - Public Relations
Download the press release template.

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

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The Press Release Template

So, how do you write a press release?

Release Note and Contact Information

Press releases are often marked “FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE” to demon­strate that this inform­a­tion is inten­ded for dis­tri­bu­tion (this is where it says “DRAFT” or “DO NOT DISTRIBUTE” while the press release is being draf­ted). It can also say, “EMBARGOED UNTIL …”. 5Remember that journ­al­ists can dis­reg­ard your “embar­goed” press release and pub­lish the inform­a­tion imme­di­ately. You could get a journ­al­ist to sign an NDA (non-dis­clos­ure agree­ment), but not all … Continue read­ing.

Date and Location

You should include the date. 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

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.

A good 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.). 

Quotes

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.

Learn more: The Press Release Template

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ANNOTATIONS
ANNOTATIONS
1 1906 Atlantic City train wreck. (2023, December 24). In Wikipedia. https://​en​.wiki​pe​dia​.org/​w​i​k​i​/​1​9​0​6​_​A​t​l​a​n​t​i​c​_​C​i​t​y​_​t​r​a​i​n​_​w​r​eck
2 Ivy Lee. (2024, January 1). In Wikipedia. https://​en​.wiki​pe​dia​.org/​w​i​k​i​/​I​v​y​_​Lee
3 The First Press Release. (2016, April 10). News Museum. https://​www​.news​mu​seum​.pt/​e​n​/​s​p​i​n​-​w​a​l​l​/​f​i​r​s​t​-​p​r​e​s​s​-​r​e​l​e​ase
4 Morris, T. (2014, August 25). Ivy Lee and the ori­gins of the press release. PR Academy; PR Academy. https://​pracademy​.co​.uk/​i​n​s​i​g​h​t​s​/​i​v​y​-​l​e​e​-​a​n​d​-​t​h​e​-​o​r​i​g​i​n​s​-​o​f​-​t​h​e​-​p​r​e​s​s​-​r​e​l​e​a​se/
5 Remember that journ­al­ists can dis­reg­ard your “embar­goed” press release and pub­lish the inform­a­tion imme­di­ately. 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 Silfwerhttps://doctorspin.net/
Jerry Silfwer, alias Doctor Spin, is an awarded senior adviser specialising in public relations and digital strategy. Currently CEO at Spin Factory and KIX Communication Index. Before that, he worked at Kaufmann, Whispr Group, Springtime PR, and Spotlight PR. Based in Stockholm, Sweden.
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The Cover Photo

The cover photo isn't related to public relations obviously; it's just a photo of mine. Think of it as a 'decorative diversion', a subtle reminder that it's good to have hobbies outside work.

The cover photo has

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