Two Ways of Determining When to Write a Press Release — Plus, a List of Topic Ideas

Two Ways of Determining When to Write a Press Release — Plus, a List of Topic Ideas

Your dog learned a new trick? You ordered a new iron? Would you like a press release with that? Press releases have become such a mundane part of public relations, that they’re synonymous with the typical drive-through question of: “Would you like fries with that?” In reality, there’s little reason to write a press release if it’s not going to get placed in the media. And even if your story does get placed, a press release isn’t always the best or most efficient way to go about pursuing media coverage. 

Regardless, I am not surprised to get odd press release requests. What surprises me is when there’s been little thought about what happens after the release has been drafted and disseminated. Beyond just the simple question of the likelihood of the release even getting placed, many people don’t understand that there’s more to it than just writing and sending a release. The totality of embarking on a successful release campaign includes maintaining a well-researched media list, sending customized emails with the release and diligently following up all important steps in the effort to achieve placement.

And yet, there is still a place for the press release. But, along with that comes knowing when, and when not, to write one. Let’s break down the mystery once and for all. 


What’s New With You?

The first key is remembering that the news writes about what’s new. It’s as simple as that. Therefore, in A Modern Guide to Public Relations I ask readers to go through the exercise of writing down what’s new with their company and/or executives. Do that now. Jotting down a messy list will get your brain going without pigeon-holing it with too many ideas that will only serve as a distraction. 

Think about what company and/or executive updates have occurred most recently and what’s on the horizon. There’s no need to go back past a few months, nor project too far into the future. Stay within a 12 month framework. 

Once you have that list, here are the two keys to look for to determine if your press release ideas have merit or not.

Two Important News Components

Press releases must hold one of the following two characteristics for them to run:



There are a few ways in which your press release or news topic could be timely. 

For instance, whatever you’re announcing shouldn’t have occurred too long ago. Last year’s news must stay in last year (unless last year was just a few months ago), which is why I suggest not going too far back in your list of new happenings.

But even better is if the press release could hook into something that is coming up soon, such as the announcement of something that your company will be involved in or will host.

Or, timeliness could be found by tweaking your news to align with current events/news, popular culture or other things that are already on people’s minds (such as the change of seasons with Back-to-School approaching and/or a specific holiday such as Labor Day). 

And finally, timeliness should always consider when to send the release out. Send the release in a timely way that fits best with how each medium (print, TV, web, etc.) works. For instance, don’t send a release about an event happening tomorrow to a print outlet since they wouldn’t have time to print the information. And in that same vein, don’t send a release to TV now about an occurrence happening in six months because that’s too far out for them to plan. 



Hooking into the timeliness of what’s going on in the world, such as Back-to-School, ties into the second concept: newsworthiness. Generally, newsworthiness considers whether or not your news is something that people would actually want to know. If your news doesn’t affect a particular news source’s audience, why would they want to tell their audience about it? 

One way of ensuring that your news is in fact, newsworthy, is to pay attention to current news and how it may have a direct impact on, or connection with, your company. If you find a story there, you can add that angle in the lead of your press release. This is called “news jacking” and likely best done with a clear and concise PR pitch that is sent either along with your press release or instead of a press release. Regardless, if you have to write a press release and can add a current news hook into the release (otherwise known as making it newsworthy), you’re on the right track. 


Putting Pen to Paper

Now that you have a general idea of how to approach gaining PR placements, remove anything that isn’t either timely or newsworthy from your list of news ideas before comparing them against the list of press release ideas below. 

The ideas below range from the relatively mundane (such as an executive joining a board) to the very exciting (such as new scientific research). The mundane ideas are meant to be written as straight-forward announcements that could garner a few lines or a paragraph within the typical local business journal, business section of a local newspaper, or a trade journal. The larger ideas are strong enough to stand alone with a press release, but may be better encapsulated with a short, compelling pitch to be sent with the release to either summarize the release topic or convey something that you weren’t quite able to get across within the formal release structure. 


List of Press Release Topics 

  • Join a board/committee
  • Donate to a cause
  • Open a new location
  • Create a new service or product 
  • Hire a notable new person
  • Construct new development/building
  • Launch of a new scientific study or a study’s results
  • Obtain substantial funding
  • Win a notable award 
  • Community involvement/volunteering*
  • Events, photo ops and press conferences*
  • Recap what you did (events, fundraising and company results, such as growth)*

*The asterisks indicate that there is more to these particular topics and the release may need to look different, such as in media advisory format, or again, you may not even need a press release. In A Modern Guide to Public Relations, I explain these three categories in more depth, along with when a pitch may be a better course of action for all ideas. 

It’s important to remember that no matter how similar they seem, no two situations are identical, therefore your course of action is going to vary. While many of us desire clear and concise rules, the best PR people are instinctual and learn with time. The creative aspect of PR, along with the ever-changing nature of news and the way it is consumed, means we’re constantly reassessing the rules. This brings the variety and flavor that many of us crave and thrive within as creative types. 

However, when in doubt, come back to this blog post to strengthen your resolve, especially when it comes to telling your boss or client “no, you may not have a press release with that.”

I’m PR: Seeking Organizations Desiring Stronger Brands

I’m PR: Seeking Organizations Desiring Stronger Brands

Hi, my name is public relations, but you can call me PR. I’m currently seeking an organization that wants to build a relationship with me. I wear many hats that can elevate your organization’s position and reputation in the marketplace. If you are looking for an organized, strategic, good-looking partner, then we might click!


A Little About My Family

I am pretty versatile, and my past relationships could agree. Many people associate me with my cousins, marketing and advertising, and yes, we are very close but usually function differently. We are all in the family of communication, but I earn my work, whereas advertising pays for it, but we both deliver messages and inspire action among key audiences.


My Everyday Life and Hobbies

No day is the same for me. I am everywhere, juggling many projects at once. Keeping my calendar updated is very important, so if you’re looking for me, you can surely find me there. 

Although I’m not always by the book. I love spontaneous news pitches or a good networking opportunity. But don’t get fooled, I will always put my organization first and can pen you in if you need a quick pick-me-up or a coffee. 

My favorite hobbies include: 

  • Searching the news for topics my organization could comment on
  • Pitching my thought leaders for podcasts, speaking engagements or bylined articles
  • Writing A LOT, whether it be a blog post or press release
  • Planning events and meetings
  • Building relationships with reporters

Extras about me:

  • Favorite catchphrase: “Hi, I am checking to see if you received my last email?”
  • My biggest pet peeve: No response
  • Favorite shows: Sex in the City (Samantha!) and Schitt’s Creek (Alexis!)
  • Biggest value: Honesty
  • Favorite podcast: The PR Talk Podcast (Obvi!)


My Love Language

Understanding and supporting my organization’s mission and goals is a high priority. I also consider its key audiences and the messages it wants to deliver. One of my favorite books is A Modern Guide to Public Relations by Amy Rosenberg. She speaks so highly of me while explaining how I work. The book discusses my strategies when developing a campaign, while providing examples of some related tactics. As you can already tell, I am all about planning ahead and carefully choosing my strategies and tactics for each initiative. Basing my plans around audience customization and achieving my organization’s objectives is key to my love language.


What I Know About Organizations

An organization’s brand is one of its most valuable assets. Audiences can instantly recognize groups like Nike, Apple and McDonald’s. But they are more than just their names and logos. Most importantly, they evoke specific responses from their target audiences. I can be used to achieve desired responses (what you want people to think, feel or do) when they associate with you. I use my understanding of those aimed responses to create plans to reflect positively on my organization’s brand, but I am also there if the plan backfires.


What Would Make Us a Perfect Match

My perfect match is an organization that understands a good relationship takes time. We won’t know everything about each other overnight, so you can’t expect results right away. A perfect match must be open to new ideas and opportunities. When I find a new organization, things will change, and I need to know you are prepared. 


Fun Date Ideas

Every date doesn’t have to be different. I understand that consistently showing up is very important, but I did think of some fun things we could do together. These are not just for our first date, but the future of our relationship!

  • Create a newsworthy press release (here is an example) and send it to the media for coverage 
  • Hold events for a particular community cause and ensure press is invited
  • Create articles and blogs from thought leaders to show what you know and garner backlinks to your website
  • Conduct company-wide volunteering efforts and donation campaigns
  • Have thought leaders from your organization go on TV, radio, and podcasts

How to Get My Attention

If you read through my profile and thought: wow, I need PR in my life, then go ahead and swipe right! I would love to get to know you and see if we could build a strong relationship. There are many ways to reach me, and one of them is through this contact form. If you don’t think you are ready, ease yourself in by learning more about me in this excellent guide to my modern life.

Thanks for visiting! XOXO 

Streamlined Press Release Template [Free]

Streamlined Press Release Template [Free]

If you’re a no-nonsense kind of person, you may benefit from the more streamlined press release template below. After reviewing the press release “template” I’d originally created in “A Modern Guide to Public Relations,” I realized it’s not a template. It’s a creative way to explain the inner-workings of a press release instead. So, if you like a little more explanation, be sure to check that out, but if you’re all about the facts, this is for you!

While this press release template is possibly more straightforward, I should warn you that there really isn’t a way to create a general press release template without knowing what the topic of the release even is! Hopefully soon we will be able to create templates for specific press release topics, as listed below:

The theme here is New because the News is about what’s New

  • New board/committee: either your leader has joined or your organization is announcing new member(s)
  • New charitable donation: your organization either receives or gives more than $5,000
  • New office opening
  • New service or product creation
  • New notable hire
  • New development/building construction
  • New scientific study launched or results announced
  • New award win
  • New or returning event announcement 
  • New funding received or going public

What’s New with your organization? That’s your press release topic, unless…. You are following up on previously sent news with a recap, such as:

  • Recap event announcing results, i.e. funds raised or attendees drawn
  • Recap community effort, such as how many bags of trash collected
  • Recap organizational growth/hiring/funding efforts previously announced.

It is fine to “recap” news in a press release, it’s just more retro-active news. If you’re recapping news, you’re likely creating a follow-up press release to news you’ve already sent. 

Photo opportunities/media events:

  • Photo opps such as volunteering or groundbreakings could be written as straightforward media advisories or fun pitches that paint the visual if you’re inviting the press. A press release may not be needed as long as your invitation is clear and at the top of the pitch.
  • Press conference announcement (if you need a template for this, you’re not ready to host a press conference on your own).

If none of these scenarios fit with your announcement topic,  perhaps give more thought to whether your announcement should be formatted as a press release. Or, would it be better served by an email pitch? Many of our best stories were not generated from press releases, rather they were generated by pitches that were customized, not just by topic and client, but mostly for the press medium (TV, podcasts, or print/web, etc.) and/or press contact.

Should You Write a Press Release

Headline Summarizing All Content with

 Location or Industry Mentioned 


[City], [State abbreviation], [Date] FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Today [insert organization name with link to website] announces [insert announcement]. [Insert one-two sentences about the announcement and/or when, what, where details. Include information about the organization, but don’t overshadow what’s being announced].

“[Insert how you, or someone else, feels about this announcement in quote format,]” said [insert first and last name, title, organization]. “[Insert how this announcement will help either people, local community/market, industry, or all of it].

[Add points of reference, such as research (cite sources), stats, etc. to back quotes].

“[Insert another quote if there is more to say or someone to highlight, such as a sponsor, community member, client, notable VIP, etc.], said [insert first and last name, title, and company if quoting a new person. If it is the same person as quoted above, only insert last name.]

More information could go in this paragraph, if necessary. If quoting a new person above, include their involvement with the announcement, either after or before their quote. If introducing them (with full name, title, and company) in text before their quote, only list their last name with their quote. 

More about [insert organization name]:

This is the “boilerplate” meant to offer the organization’s background. It is the same in every press release. It can be updated as the organization evolves. [Insert 2-5 sentences about organization and link to website. Include services or products organization provides, location(s), and/or industry(ies)/ location(s) service or product it helps].  [Insert social handles].

[Insert Media Contact Name and Contact Info, including cell phone and email address]

# # #

Video on the Types of Press Releases

Here is a video I recorded to support my book, A Modern Guide to Public Relations, specifically on the various types of press releases:

Feature image courtesy of Markus Winkler via Unsplash