What Press Releases Are and What They Do

Intelligent Relations
By Intelligent Relations Team

By definition, a press release informs the media and the public about something newsworthy.  

Though it often comes from private businesses or PR agencies, distributed to various outlets to advertise something, a press release can promote anything you might want to advise the media about: a new product, the launch of a book, or even an awards ceremony. 

If you want to learn more about what a press release is and what it can do, this guide will cover: 

At the end of the guide, we also include examples of press releases to give you a clearer idea.

What does a press release do?

A press release is a brief document that’s circulated to the media to relay information, and typically to generate interest for potential news coverage. It therefore must be engaging and relevant enough to coax the media into sharing it with their audience. 

Once a press release is circulated to news outlets, the hope is that journalists will find the press release interesting enough to either write about or mention in a live broadcast. 

The underlying goal of any press release is to increase traction and improve reach, whether the idea is simply to gain good publicity for a client or boost sales for a product. 

What are the main types of press releases?

There are many types of press releases, and while they all appear very similar, each has its own distinctive purpose. The most common press releases are: 

  • The Book Launch Press Release – This advertises the publication or planned release of a new book. It aims to generate buzz about the book before it hits shelves. 
  • The Event Press Release – In an event press release, organizations advertise a special event with details about what kind of event it is and who can attend.
  • The New Hire Press Release – New hire press releases announce a noteworthy hire for a company—usually only if the hire is relevant or impactful in some way.
  • The New Product Press Release – This announces a new product, or a revamped version of an existing one. It explains how it’s significant and why it matters. 
  • The Music Press Release – A music press release may announce an artist’s new single, world tour, or award or accolade.

What does a press release include?

Since a press release’s primary goal is to inform, press release formatting follows a standard news article layout: the most important information comes first, followed by all other information in order of importance. The least important information always comes at the end. 

When writing a press release there are some key features that any quality press release should include. To ensure the most important information is relayed at the top, the first one or two paragraphs have to answer what’s known as the “5 Ws”—the basis for all good press releases. 

The answers to the 5 Ws provide all the critical information one might need for a press release: 

  • Who: Who is this press release about? 
  • What: What is this press release advertising? 
  • When: When will it take place? 
  • Where: Where is it happening? (Is it worldwide? In a city? At a single location?)
  • Why: Why is it relevant? (Connected to a broader news cycle.) 

What’s important to remember is, answering the 5 Ws is only part of a press release’s goal. The information has to be presented in a way to pique a reader’s interest and keep them invested.

Another key element to press releases is the boilerplate.

The boilerplate is a concise paragraph that provides background on the company or organization that’s issuing the press release. It’s an expected industry-standard part of all press releases.

Boiler plates appear at the end of a press release, and are akin to the “About Us” page of a website. They include fundamental information about a company’s products and services, as well as big-picture details, like overall goals and market presence.

How do you keep a reader’s interest?

The “hook” is the element of a press release that’s intended to catch a reader’s attention. In a press release, the hook is the part that builds interest. It serves to establish the particular piece of news as relevant or significant to a wider audience.

If a press release can connect what it’s promoting to a wider circle of influence, like a trending issue or a social problem that can be solved, then it’s created a successful hook.

Take a look at this press release from H&M as an example.

“New brand H&M Move, launching worldwide August 4th, is embarking on a bold mission to democratise sportswear and get the whole world and everybody moving, however they move. H&M Move aims to equip the world with stylish and functionable ‘movewear’ that will support Movers of all abilities and skills to move comfortably and confidently.” 

The company seeks to capture the energy of the body positivity movement in the launch of its new brand. In the press release, they showcase a more accessible vision of “sport” by reframing it as “movement,” celebrating something that everyone on the planet already does.

Press release examples

To give a clearer picture of press releases in action, we’ve compiled a couple for your review.

In this press release issued by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), it announces the recipient of the Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators. 

Alternatively, this joint press release issued by Amazon and Whole Foods announces the acquisition of the latter by the former. 

It’s worth noting in the example above, that while a merger involving one of the world’s largest companies hardly needs context to build a hook, the press release creates an angle: Amazon reaffirms a commitment to making organic food accessible by offering temporary discounts. 

We have a wide-ranging selection of industry-specific press release example guides:

Fashion press release example

Music single press release example

Political press release example

Wrapping up press releases

Press releases may seem confusing or intimidating at first, but, as you can see, they don’t have to be. If you ever want to, or find yourself in a position where you need to write a press release, just ask yourself: “Why am I writing this and what do I want to promote?” 

As long as your press release answers those two questions clearly, you’re off to a great start.

For more information on the various kinds of press releases, visit some of our other handy guides. Also, if you’re in need of a press release for your company or organization, but can’t find the time or energy to create one, Intelligent Relations has you covered.