Startup guide to PR: Press releases and pitching to journalists

Startup guide to PR: Press releases and pitching to journalists

17th November 2018 by Tessa Bryant

In our second blog post of the series we covered how to plan and construct your outreach to the press – a crucial element to your PR plan. In this post we’ll be looking at how to craft and formulate a compelling press release.

Forming your story in an interesting and concise way is key to keeping the journalist engaged when they are reading your press release. Before you start writing, you should think about the different angles or news hooks that make up this story.

Your news hook could be a new company announcement (e.g. opening a new office), new statistics or data (in lieu with something topical), company growth figures (perhaps in £ or %), an interview or a call to action (investment opportunity). The key element to all of these examples is keeping in mind that the angle you take must be something new and unique, making it interesting for the audience.

Writing style and language are important to bear in mind when formulating your press release. Whilst you don’t want to sound too formal, it’s equally important not to sound too relaxed or blasé. It’s crucial to strike the right balance of being an approachable brand as well as a business-focused and knowledgeable brand.

Having a structure and a focus to your press release is key: you have a limited amount of time before a journalist will become disengaged. The title must be catchy and explain clearly what the overarching message of the press release is, generally in the format of “Something/someone does/experiences/announces something new”.

Paragraph structure:

  1. Include a date and location to introduce the release (e.g. “Press release, London, 16th January 2017:…”) followed by the mission of the announcement. What it does and what it is for. This is the chance to grab the journalist’s attention.
  2. Now it’s time to be more specific about the announcement, delve into the key USPs/differentiators here. Don’t lose focus by becoming quite general, keep it concise and informative.
  3. In the third paragraph, a quote from the CEO or founder is well-placed explaining the announcement, what it means for the business/sector and why it is so exciting. Quotes are a great way to get your key messages across word for word with no confusion.
  4. It is now a good time to start talking about market trends and stats here, explaining why this announcement is good for the wider community that your business is a part of. Ideally include at least one data point in this paragraph (e.g. “the sector is worth £X” or “the sector has grown YoY by X%”)
  5. Rounding off the bulk of the content with another quote is a positive and clarifying way to conclude. Use an industry spokesperson or a current investor this time as they provide validation and endorsement.
  6. Finally, include a brief summary of your business, any awards you’ve won and perhaps your business’s status within the sector from a third party endorsement.

Notes to Editors:
At the end of the release, include contact details (phone and email) as the journalist may wish to request more information or images. Alongside this, include links to the website, the social media channels and a brief biography of the founders. This all serves as a ‘go-to’ for the journalist and provides background information that doesn’t need to be in the release itself but is still important to include to provide a foundation.

After you’ve drafted your release, it’s time to start thinking about how you’re going to send it out. Sending a bulk email to a whole list of journalists in bcc with a generic “good afternoon” is generally not good practice in PR. As a startup, blanket coverage (coverage of the same story in every title) is not hugely likely and extremely hard to achieve as you won’t yet have the brand.

Instead, target your approach to the right journalists and send a personal and thoughtful introduction email. Ensure your press release is copied into the body of the email – below the introduction – as well as being attached as a word document, not PDF.

A great way to get your list of target journalists right is to read pieces they have written recently, engage with them on social media and angle your pitch towards something they’re currently interested in/writing about. This will demonstrate that your pitch is well thought-out and considered which, along with a friendly introduction, will maximise your chances of receiving feedback.

This post only covers the basics of press releases and pitching. We want to help businesses spread their message, so we have put together a series of monthly workshops called “Disruptive Startups Hijack UK News Agenda” where we discuss topics around PR for your business.

At these events, we share key tips to maximising awareness of your startup with a special guest appearance from a different leading national journalist who will share first-hand advice on successful press engagement. 

If you want to learn more about PR for your business check out the rest of our Startup guide to PR series here

Tessa Bryant

Tessa Bryant

PR Manager

Digital Agency Kent