I was browsing through a few freelance writing sites, due to work on another project. I came across one of them featuring a press release template and instructions on how to write a press release.
With PR being my primary area of expertise, I always enjoy taking a look at various press release articles and especially templates, partly because there are some excellent examples out there and partly because there are some that are pretty off-base. The latter group usually serves as a good example of common mistakes… just like the press release template linked above. So from this point on, I’ll feature the good and the bad here, and offer some commentary on why you should, or shouldn’t, use them as a model in your press release writing.
The press release template above makes a very common mistake; the author is essentially confusing a press release with a media advisory (and is also missing a pretty fundamental component).
When you’re announcing an event to the media, and you want them to attend or “cover” it (as you’d have to assume from this template, b/c it’s mentioning who to contact for reservations – not something you’d include otherwise), you should send a media advisory. They’re similar in purpose to a press release, but they each have their appropriate place. One is to have a story written from the release materials, and the other is to have a story written (or broadcast coverage) after having a member of the media attend an event.
You can almost equate a media advisory to an invitation of sorts in most cases. You’ll include the very basic who, what, when, where, and why, and outlined exactly like that – not written as a narrative or “story” as you would with a press release.
As for what’s missing in this template: the boilerplate. You shouldn’t send a press release without one. Think of a boilerplate as an abbreviated “about us” page from your website. It would be a basic paragraph offering background on the person, company, website, or organization issuing the release, and it’s expected by members of the media. One of the worst mistakes you can make when working with the media is to make their job harder by not providing the most basic information they need in order to decide whether to cover your story… it’s a surefire way to have your released thrown out or deleted.