10 Rules for Perfect Startup Press Releases

Posted by Jon Yongfook — 20 Mar 2013

Unless your last name is Zuckerberg, journalists are probably not flocking to your company blog on a daily basis to read what your company is up to. Journalists are busy folks and keeping them updated about your company means delivering information to them – not expecting them to come to you.

A Press Release is a great way to do that. Many startups are apprehensive about sending emails to journalists because they have no experience doing it or they have self-limiting beliefs such as “journalists won’t be interested!”. This is not true. Journalists are swamped with pitches but by following these rules you stand a much better chance of getting a response.

1) What’s the story?
First and foremost. Do you have a story? Is it newsworthy? Is it worth talking about? If you can’t imagine people in your industry talking about your press release over lunch, then your pitch needs tweaking.

2) Attention-grabbing but accurate headline
Press release headlines (and email subjects) need to be short, exciting – but at the same time accurate and non-salesy. A good rule of thumb for email subjects is keeping it under 80 characters – aim for a similar limit with press release headlines.

3) Include hard numbers
Nothing adds relevance to a story like some actual numbers. Tell journalists where you’re at in terms of user numbers or revenue.

4) Include assets
Definitely include any visual assets such as screenshots or your logo in your email – don’t make journalists go hunting for them. Spare a thought for journalists inboxes though and don’t go sending 20mb email attachments!

5) Short, sweet and get right to the point
Your opening paragraph should be just one or two sentences long and get the facts across. The press release should answer these questions – who, what, when, where… and if there’s space, why and how. Resist the temptation to be salesy.

6) Include a quote
But not some mindless, inauthentic CEO corporate-speak talking about how great you are. Try to tell a human side to your story through your quote.

7) Proofread!
Nothing trns off journlists more then badly-writtten text. Proofreading is also an opportunity for you to edit your text to make it even shorter.

8) Personalize and familiarize
You have to target your press release to publishers who are relevant to you. That’s just a matter of course, these days. Going one step further, you have to personalize press releases to specific journalists – understand their areas of interest and what stories they write about. To do that you have to familiarize yourself with the journalist. Read their archive of articles, do your research.

9) Tuesday to Thursday
This can be said for sending most types of professional email, but Monday is weekend-recovery day for most human beings and Friday is yay-almost-the-weekend day. You’re better off sending your press releases from Tuesday to Thursday.

10) Do it regularly!
Sending a press release is not a one-time thing that you do at your launch then sit back on your throne to smoke a cigar as journalists fall over themselves to write about you. If only. Building a relationship with the press is a long-term activity that you should be engaging in regularly. Keep the press updated about your user numbers, download numbers, funding, business pivots, executive hires, regional expansion – the list goes on and we’ll be talking more about PR-worthy events in a future blog post!