How to Write an AP Style Press Release

Intelligent Relations
By Intelligent Relations Team

For a press release to get considered for publication, it needs to clearly present information in an unbiased way that grabs the reader’s attention—it’s not as easy as some might think.

Perhaps more importantly, a press release needs to follow a particular format if it’s even going to be read by any media outlet. 

One of the most widely accepted formats you can learn to improve your press release immediately is the Associated Press (AP) style format.

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The main types of AP-style press releases

One of the world’s largest news organizations, the AP publishes an annual stylebook that covers everything journalists need to know, from formatting conventions to punctuation rules.

An industry standard press release format makes it easy for journalists and editors to quickly read a press release and assess whether it’s newsworthy. If a press release doesn’t follow these standard practices, a press release is more likely to end up in the trash than on an editor’s desk.

While any press release should follow these standards, and serve the same purpose—to generate media coverage—there are a few different types of press releases. Below are three main types of press releases you’ll likely encounter.

Event press release

Any company or organization planning to host or sponsor a special event will issue a press release as an invitation for the media to cover the event. 

The event itself might be a convention, a fundraiser, or an initiative. Any event can warrant a press release, but the event itself must be newsworthy in order to be published. 

Book launch press release

Professional writers will put out a press release to announce the launch of a new book to generate ongoing coverage for its release, and after. 

However, media outlets might not be interested unless the book launch is part of a wider context or is impactful in some way—for example if a major public figure releases a memoir. 

New hire press release

One of the most common types of press releases is the new hire press release

This press release details new hires (usually C-suite) by a company of interest to shareholders and customers, or journalists that cover that particular industry. 

What to include in an AP-style press release

Press releases rely on three major qualities. They are short, informative, and direct. Nobody reads a press release for fun, so the sooner they get the information they need the better.

To accomplish this in your own press release, stick to the “5 Ws” when you’re writing:

  • Who is the subject of the press release?
  • What is the press release about?
  • When is the focus of the announcement taking place?
  • Where will the focus of the announcement take place?
  • Why is the focus of the announcement taking place?

When you stick to answering these questions in a quick and straightforward manner, your press release will stay relevant and concise. 

How to write and format an AP-style press release 

While some of these guidelines might seem trivial, rest assured, media outlets don’t see it that way. If you want your press release to generate media coverage, keep to the expected style and format outlined below to get it right.

Press release layout

Writing press releases follows a structure known in journalism as the “inverted pyramid,” with the most important information coming first and the least important coming last. It’s used because it works, and anyone reading a press release following this structure is likely to finish it.

  • Title: Also called the “headline,” this is what a reader sees first, so it needs to be short, clear, and attention-grabbing.
  • First paragraph: This is where the most crucial information in the press release will appear (i.e., the 5 Ws). Keep it under 80 words.
  • Second and third paragraphs: Any additional information relevant to the announcement is included here. This will provide a broader context that may be used by a media outlet as a basis for any coverage. 
  • Quote: All good press releases include a short quote from someone involved in the focus of the announcement. It should have a positive and optimistic tone.
  • Fourth paragraph: Bring a formal end to your announcement with a few words about what the announcement means and why it might be relevant.
  • Boilerplate: The boilerplate is a brief description of the issuer of the announcement, whether an organization or an individual. This should be no longer than 100 words.
  • Contact info: At the very bottom of the press release, contact information for press inquiries appears. For a company or organization, this would be a media manager. For an individual, it might be either personal contact information or an agent’s.

Press release basics

Although formatting a press release is the most crucial element, so is style. Keep the following tips in mind when crafting your press release:

  • Write it like a news article. A press release isn’t a pitch. It should come across like a news article written by a professional—stick to the facts.
  • Write it in the third person. Throughout, keep the point of view in the third person, like an independent observer. The only exception will be the quote.
  • Keep it short. Press releases are typically only one page of copy, two at the most, so keep yours within this limit.
  • Keep prose neutral and hyperbole-free. Remember, you’re not trying to sell a reader, you’re trying to generate interest in the announcement itself. Keep the prose unbiased, and free of effusive or excessive language.
  • Think carefully about the target audience. Take into account who the press release is for, be it shareholders, partners, or customers. Whoever that target audience is, keep them in mind and ask yourself what information they’d be most interested in.
  • Consider the media outlets you’re going to send it to. As per the previous point: your media audience needs to see the information as relevant to their readership, so how can you present the press release in the most interesting way possible?

Creating the “hook”

Generally, press releases aren’t interesting reads. In fact, a lot of them are dull and tedious, frankly. But, they can be made a little more interesting by establishing an intriguing “hook,” and running it through the length of the press release.

Hooks are what compels a reader to keep reading and, hopefully, ultimately, will lead a journalist to provide press coverage. Focus on these key areas for planting your hooks:

  • The Headline: Since this leads off the press release, it needs to be compelling. Use bold and exciting words to elicit emotion or encourage action (e.g., “[Company X] Announces Plans to Host Major Partnership Event to Feature Biggest Names in the Automotive Industry”)
  • The First Paragraph: Once you’ve got a reader’s attention with the headline, this is where you reel them in. Tell the reader what the announcement is about using language to pique their interest. Remember, though, don’t oversell or resort to hyperbole.
  • The Fourth Paragraph: Conclude with fitting words to hint to the reader of what’s to come. For an event press release, this might regard the venue or accommodations. For a new hire, this might change the hire will bring to the company. Whatever it is, leave the reader with the sense it’s the beginning of something great. 

Examples of AP-style press releases

There are countless examples of press releases online, good, bad, and even downright terrible. But, to save you time, we curated these three below to serve as inspiration.

  • AP Style Event Press Release – In this example, Nutanix announces a virtual event.
  • AP Style Book Launch Press Release – In this example, a book publisher announces the release and worldwide availability of a military thriller novel.
  • AP Style New Hire Press Release – In this example, Revere Securities announces a new hire joining the firm as chief operating officer.

We offer many different press release resources, check out some of our guides:

New York Times press release submission

Cryptocurrency press release distribution

Political press release example

Sending out your press release 

With your AP-style press release written and formatted, it’s time to send it out for distribution. Here, your press release ends up in the hands of media outlets who, with any luck, will provide your announcement with the media coverage it deserves.

There are two main ways you can submit a press release, either direct outreach or wire service.

Press release wire service 

There are many distribution wire services that will send your press release to targeted media outlets and independent journalists for a fee. 

They typically provide an outreach report to show the impact of the press release, but be aware, for every good wire service, there are a dozen that will overpromise and underdeliver.

Press release direct outreach

Instead of a wire service, you could also send out a press release to media outlets and journalists via email. 

You need to compile a list of outlets and then draft an introductory pitch for each. While this approach does take more work, it can also be more effective, especially if you have established relationships with any journalists or media outlets. 

Wrapping up AP-style press releases

Using this standard press release style not only makes them easier to put together, but it also makes it easier for journalists to distinguish worthwhile press releases from the rest. This format style is used by a wide range of companies and organizations seeking media coverage.

Also, while this guide is intended to provide instruction for anyone to put together an AP-style press release, not everyone has the time or resources to commit to doing it. For those situations, Intelligent Relations is here to help with all your public relations needs.