Ultimate Startup Press Release Guide (With Real Examples) | Publicize

If you want to listen to the audio version of ULTIMATE STARTUP PRESS RELEASE GUIDE, press play here.

Whether you work for a startup, a multinational, or simply for yourself, press releases are a fundamental aspect of any media strategy. That’s why we’ve put this guide together, to walk you through the following:

  • Everything you need to know about writing a press release
  • 10 real-world press release examples , including press releases for startups, tech and company launch announcements, product launch press release and more
  • Free press release template Word doc
  • The best tips of the trade on how to write a press release pitch letter 
  • How to build on the momentum that’s generated from press coverage

So without further ado, here’s what we’ve learned from the thousands of press releases we’ve written and pitched to the media over the years.

First, a very quick bit of context (that you should definitely read)

Press releases have been the bread and butter of PR, almost since the dawn of the industry. Their use is so ubiquitous in the PR world as they’re a simple and concise medium to transmit a company  announcement to the press.

But it’s undeniable that the rules of the game have changed. The TechCrunch Editor at Large, Mike Butcher, summed up the mood of the media industry a few years ago in a blog post[1]:

“Mostly, ‘press releases’ are written in the way a PR’s client would write a news story. They are usually pretty rambling and designed to please the client (read: stroke their ego) rather than assist the journalist to get shit done, and fast. So, I think the press release format is DEAD.”

Mike Butcher

We think the last line is overdoing it a bit, as based on our experience, press releases are still the preferred method of communication for editors at most leading publications. However, he hit the nail on the head with his other points, so the PR industry has had to adapt its methods to achieve the end goal of media coverage.

In this guide, we’ll explain how our press release methodology and templates are keeping us ahead of the curve – helping startups and other companies we work with gain more media exposure.You can also read our guide to PR in 2020[2]. This provides a complete overview of the PR industry in 2020. It also provides advice and resources on public relations for startup companies and other businesses.

Part 1 – How to write a press release (with real-world examples)

What is a press release and what’s its purpose?

Let’s break it down to the basics; a press release is an official announcement from a company, organization or individual, providing information about a newsworthy event. The goal is to gain media coverage by sending the press release to journalists, bloggers, and influencers.

They’re often one of the main components of a well-balanced PR and media strategy, alongside other mainstays such as guest articles, expert comments and opinions, and media appearances.

But earning media coverage is just the means towards bigger-picture objectives, which are usually one or more of the following:

  • Build brand awareness. You can reach your target market very effectively through earned media.
  • Increase your legitimacy. Crucial for startups. Potential customers or investors need to have faith in your business, positive media coverage can really help with this.
  • Gain referral traffic. Media coverage generated from a good press release, especially when talking about a new product or service, can generate referral traffic.
  • Increase backlinks. This can be an effective way to combine PR and SEO[3], but this depends on a few factors. We’ve written a guide, explaining when press release backlinks are good for SEO[4].

When should I write a press release

So as discussed above, press releases are used to share and communicate news about important company announcements. The most common press release announcements include :

  • Company launch/startup launch
  • Securing funding
  • New product, service or territory launch
  • Winning or renewing a partnership
  • Publishing research findings
  • New hire
  • Winning an award
  • Customer or user acquisition milestone
  • Industry-first
  • Upcoming event 

But not everything that falls into the above list is necessarily newsworthy. And there are some instances when alternatives to a press release[5] could be more appropriate for you.

What news is press release worthy (and what isn’t)

A common mistake many companies make is to issue press releases when they have nothing newsworthy to announce, often dictated by an arbitrary press/outreach calendar cycle. The golden rule we always stick to with our clients is:

‘never issue a press release for the sake of issuing a press release’

Companies that don’t abide by this rule will usually find there is little to no ROI with this activity. They will also suffer from opportunity cost, as their resources could have been put to better use on other PR and marketing activities that would have provided a better return.

So how do we decide what’s newsworthy and what’s not?

It all comes down to the substance of the announcement. Here’s the thought process of our editorial team.

What’s your story and how to tell it

Now you know what news is press release worthy (and what isn’t), the next thing you need to do is tell your story in a way that adds value and intrigue.

What’s your angle?

If you’re announcing the launch of your startup, then I’m afraid to say this fact alone is not newsworthy. You need to develop a hook – why this announcement matters to the people reading it.

The hook matters more than ever these days. Whereas in the good ol’ days, you could put out thin press releases with no hook and expect some coverage, the information age we now live in means you need to work much harder to get attention.

The angle you take will depend on what you’re announcing as well as the industry you’re in. Here are some common examples:

  • Solving a problem. Does what you’re announcing solve a known problem?
  • Addressing a need. Does it address a clear need within the market?
  • Progressing towards a goal. Does it help you move towards a goal?
  • Achieving a goal. Have you achieved something of value? Does this have wider benefits?
  • Providing new insight/challenging orthodoxy. Does it tell us something we didn’t already know or challenge current assumptions?

What information should you include?

It’s the classic who, what, when, where, why. These five points should be covered off in the opening paragraph. The rest of the press release should then be used to expand on these points.

How to provide substance to your angle

If, for example, your angle is solving a problem, then it’s not enough to simply state there’s a problem and this provides the solution.

You need to back this up with proof.

Provide one or two hyperlinks to reputable sources, which support your angle, and then explain exactly why your announcement is providing a solution to this.

What’s your “social proof”?

Social proof, as the name suggests, is the proof that you, your startup or your company are experts in your field and an authority within the industry. Think of it as the reason why a reporter should take note of what you’re saying.

This can take many forms, for example: your startup has been through a well-known accelerator program, the founders went to a prestigious university or you have significant VC backing.

Do you write it in first or third person?

Always write a press release in third person. This is the industry standard as it allows press releases to be published “as-is”. You will still have the opportunity to provide a first-person statement when you insert a quote.

Should you ever so slightly exaggerate?

No! Approach a press release like your resume. If you exaggerate, you risk being rumbled, which will seriously harm your chance of press coverage, now and in the future. And a good journalist can spot an exaggerated press release from a mile away.

How long should a press release be?

Again, approach it like your resume. Avoid waffle at all costs and try and keep it to around a page of regular-sized font and formatting (400 to 500 words). If you approach two pages, you’ve probably written too much. A journalist may only skim the document for 30 seconds, so it has to be concise.

How to structure a press release

The exact structure of a press release is always determined by what you’re actually announcing. For example, a startup launch will differ from a new partnership.

But whatever it is you’re announcing, a well-written press release always follows a recognizable format, which looks like this.

It’s important to try and roughly stick to this format. It makes the journalist’s life a lot easier, as they’re accustomed to quickly reading and parsing information that’s presented this way.

Startup press release sample

Here’s a copy of a press release we wrote for one of our clients, which gained media coverage across a wide range of publications. This is a tech startup launch press release example, announcing the launch of a company and its services.

If you’re looking for a different type of press release example, our Startup Press Release Toolkit[6] has 10 real-world press release examples, plus an editable Press Release Word doc template.

These are the 10 most common types of press releases your startup may produce. These examples include:

  • Company launch press release example
  • Investment announcement press release example
  • Product launch press release example
  • New hire press release example
  • Partnership press release example
  • Research findings press release example
  • Award win press release example
  • Industry-first press release example
  • Event press release example
  • Company milestone press release example

How to format a press release

1. Headline: 

One of the most crucial elements of a press release. This should name the company that’s putting out the press release and explain exactly what the announcement is about.

In this example, the company name is the very first thing mentioned and it’s explaining it’s a new launch, along with what the service actually is. Keep it to a maximum of two lines.

2. Sub-headline: 

The sub-headline expands on the headline. It should offer an eye-catching piece of information about the company or the announcement. While the headline is very factual, this section needs to encourage the reader to keep on reading.

In this example, we’ve explained what the company does (as it’s a tech startup, so has low brand recognition) and put a positive spin on this.

3. Opening Paragraph – The Summary: 

Approach this like an executive summary, as it should provide a concise overview of the announcement. And remember that it needs to answer who, what, when, where and why.

The when and where are easy, as this paragraph always begins with the location and date. The company name then kicks off the first sentence, with an explanation of the announcement. The rest of the paragraph then provides an overview of who the company is, what it does and why this matters.

In the example, we’ve provided a summary of the announcement in the first sentence, so the reader knows immediately this is talking about a new service launch. We then provide a brief explanation of the tech startup, the services they provide and what’s so great about it.

Pro tip: always hyperlink the company name, so journalists can easily find your website. This also massively increases your chances of a backlink, if it’s copied-and-pasted into an article.

4. Second Paragraph – The Detail

Now we start to flesh out the detail and build upon the key information provided up top. Use this paragraph to provide more information on the company, what the announcement means in practice and why this announcement stands out in the marketplace.

In our example, we’ve provided more details on the company’s overall services, and then provided an explanation of the service launch and its uses. We’ve also provided another link, to boost the chance of backlink. But don’t pepper a press release with links to your site. Only use one when it’s natural to do so.

5. Third paragraph – More Detail

This can be used to provide further details on why the announcement is such good news for the industry, consumers, or the public etc.

In the example, we’ve honed in on the benefit this new service provides to companies who use it.

Pro tip: think about the language you’re using, You want to express how great this news is, but at the same time you don’t want to over do it. Too many superlatives are a sure way to turn off journalists!

6. Fourth paragraph – The Quote

The quote from the CEO or another relevant person from the company can go here (there’s no fixed rule about where this has to go within the main body, just wherever it fits best with the flow). The quote should be based on the angle of the story and written to add support to the narrative.

In the example, the quote reinforces the benefits this new service will provide to both customers and companies.

7. Fifth Paragraph – The Proof

This is where the angle of the press release gets cemented. Facts, figures and real-world examples are used here. The intention is to support the argument being made about why this announcement is such a big deal, such as how it solves a problem.

Pro tip: provide links to reputable sources, to back up any factual statements being made

In our example, we’ve set the scene by explaining how podcasts have skyrocketed in popularity and provide facts to back this up. Then we’ve explained the commercial opportunity this has created (supported by more facts) and how this startup is perfectly placed to address this demand.

8. Sixth Paragraph – A further quote

Providing more than one quote is optional – only do this if it adds value to your angle. If it doesn’t add anything new, then don’t add it.

In our example, we’ve inserted a second quote to add more weight to our angle.

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