An effective public relations strategy is key to your business’ success. It allows you to communicate with the public, stay at the forefront of their minds, and establish a unique brand voice. Despite the advent of social media, one of the most important features of public relations remains the same—press releases.
Press releases are used to deliver news, announce events, or promote new products to the media in a concise, yet captivating way, so that journalists are compelled to turn the release into a story. Using an efficient press release service will help give your company the media coverage it needs. While the content of your press release is certainly critical to whether or not a journalist decides to run with it, perhaps the more important element is its formatting.
The AP, or Associated Press style of formatting is used across all news publications. So, if you want your press release to be picked up and read by a journalist, you’ll need to ensure it follows this format. Read on to learn more about proper AP style press release format.
What Are AP Style Press Release Guidelines? The Associated Press is a non-profit news agency that’s published style guidelines to be used across news and media outlets. These AP style guidelines ensure uniformity in punctuation, font, perspective, and other aspects of publications.
An AP style format press release designates the following guidelines1:
Author – Your citation should list the author’s last name first, followed by a comma and the first name. However, because press releases are typically written and published by organizations, your author will likely be the organization. This means you’ll want to start your APA citations with the name of the company. If a specific department within an organization released your particular press release, you should list the organization first, then list the specific department.
Spacing – One space is used after a period, rather than two.
Punctuation – The serial comma is standard, rather than the Oxford comma. This means when listing items in a series, a comma is not used before the last item.
Capitalization – For headlines and subheadlines, capital letters or title case is used, rather than sentence case.
Headlines – While the content of the headline needs to be compelling, the press release format needs to adhere to the AP style. This means a headline should be between 65 to 80 characters and typed in 14-point font.
Subheadlines – If used, subheadlines should be around 120 characters, typed in 12-point font, and ideally, italicized.
Perspective – AP style press releases are always written from a third-person perspective.
Numbers – The numbers 1 to 9 should be spelled out, while all numbers above 9 should be written as numerals. The only expectation to this rule is if a number is used at the beginning of a sentence. In this case, the number should be written out in text.
Dates – Dates should be written with numbers, while months should be written in text. Further, any month longer than five letters should be abbreviated.
Font – Common fonts, such as Times New Roman or Arial, can be used with AP style formatting. Font size should remain standard, with headlines at 14-point, subheadlines at 13-point, and body paragraph text at 12-point.
Quotes – When initially quoting a source, use the source’s full name and title. Any subsequent mentions of this source will only require the last name.
AP style guidelines not only apply to the format of your content, but also to its structure. What do we mean by this?
Essentially, you want to present your information like an inverted pyramid, with the most important information at the start of your press release, followed by less important information and quotes from any sources. This ensures that the journalist who reads your press release understands the five Ws of your release as soon as possible: the who, what, when, where, and why.
Other Important AP Style Press Release Tips While understanding the general AP style guidelines above will help ensure your press release is formatted properly, there are other important structure and content guidelines to keep in mind when creating an effective press release. Let’s explore them in detail below. Structure To ensure your press release is sent out when intended, you must specify your release time and date in the top right-hand corner in all caps.
If the document is ready to be released, you’ll signify this by adding, FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, beneath the release time and date. If the release is not ready yet, you can signify this with the statement EMBARGOES FOR RELEASE UNTIL [DATE AND TIME OF RELEASE].
In the upper left-hand side of the document, you’ll include the following:
After your middle justified headline and (optional) subheadline, the body paragraph text of your press release should start with a location and time stamp that provides the reader with the where and when of the story.
The location should include the city and state (with proper state abbreviations used), and the date should include the month.
The text that follows your location and time stamp is referred to as your first paragraph. This section should summarize the press release (including the who, the what, and the why) in 60 words or less. If your first paragraph is too long or doesn’t include these key details, you run the risk of losing your reader. Utilize the help of press release templates to help you follow the AP style format.
Content Before writing the content of your press release, it’s important to understand who your audience is. While a journalist will be the one to release the story on a larger scale, they’ll be looking for stories and information that appeal to their target audience.
Think about who this is and how the news within your press release may affect them. If you can write the release from this angle, you’ll be sure to garner their attention.
Your business’ release may be important to a particular audience because of their
Once you understand your angle, you can effectively write your headline, first paragraph, middle paragraphs, and boilerplate.
How to Write a Compelling Headline Perhaps the most important part of your press release is your headline. An effective headline is what will spark a journalist’s interest and encourage them to continue reading. So, how can you ensure your headline is captivating enough to draw attention in this way?
It can be helpful to use the following tips:
Include specific details – For instance, if your press release revolves around your business’ latest fundraising efforts, you may want to include the specific amount of money you raised.
Call your reader to action – If your business is using a press release to spread the word about an upcoming event, you can include something along the lines of “How You Can Join,” within your headline.
Tie in current events – Consider how your news relates to current events or other popular news topics. The more your news relates to current events, the more likely a journalist will want to write a story about it.
After your headline, you’ll dive into the first paragraph.
How to Write a Compelling First Paragraph While short, your first paragraph is crucial. Think of it as the essence of your story. It provides the reader with the who, what, when, where, and why.
Be sure to briefly touch on each of these 5 Ws so that the reader understands what awaits them in the press release. Then, you can expand upon these elements in your middle paragraphs.
How to Write a Compelling Boilerplate The boilerplate is the final paragraph of your press release. Its purpose is to provide the reader with information about your company. Like the first paragraph, your boilerplate should be short and sweet—typically under 100 words.
An effective boilerplate will include noteworthy details about your business, such as:
Background and history
Awards and distinctions
Time in the industry
How AP Style Press Release Format Benefits Journalists Formatting your press release in AP style is beneficial to journalists because it’s the writing style used across all news and media publications. If your press release is already formatted this way:
Journalists don’t have to worry about reformatting the content
The information is quick and easy to read
The key facts are clearly stated
This means that a journalist who receives an AP style format press release is more likely to read the release, which increases its chances of being published as a full news story. Plus, 78% of journalists say press releases are where they look to find information about brands, making a well-written, properly formatted press release for new business, a highly valuable public relations tool in any industry2.
Other Ways to Increase Press Release Exposure Once you’ve nailed your press release format and content, you can further its appeal and increase its exposure through the use of images, videos, and infographics. In fact, audiences are more likely to engage with your event press release and share it across social platforms if it features some or all of these elements, rather than simply plain text.
Data collected from over 160,000 PR Newswire press releases show that these added elements increased audience engagement in the following ways3:
With one image – Engagement doubled
With one video – Engagement tripled
With several images – Engagement was 6x greater than releases with text only
Ensure Your Audience Reach and Press Release Success with ACCESSWIRE A captivating press release that’s written in proper AP style press release format is sure to garner the attention of journalists, giving your business the opportunity to become wide-reaching news. But to ensure your press release makes it into the right hands, you’ll need to ensure proper distribution. That’s where we can help.
At ACCESSWIRE, we offer press release distribution services for private companies, public companies, and agencies. With over 15 years of experience in the industry, we understand how to increase your press release exposure, reach your target audience, and grow your business. Connect with us today to get started.