How to Write a Press Release for an Event
So, you’re hosting the event of the year. You and your team have put months of blood, sweat and tears into organising it. Now all you need to do is let people know about it. Whether it’s a product launch, conference, or charity fundraiser, the best way to spread the word to the masses is via the media.
This is all very well, but how do you get them to cover it? In our digital-first world, you may think ‘social media’. And yes, you should shout about your event on your social channels. With over three billion active internet users, including prospects, journalists and bloggers, you can reach a ton of people online at the click of a button. But don’t neglect traditional PR. The humble event press release is a hugely effective weapon in your PR arsenal.
Before we get into the nitty gritty of how to write a press release for an event, let’s go back to basics.
What is a press release?
A press release or a news release is a short, factual story that businesses issue to the media. The aim is to entice bloggers, journalists, and other members of the media to pick up the information and make it public.
When done well, press releases are an effective marketing and PR tool and serve three main PR purposes:
- Notify the media about your event, so they’ll spread the word and create buzz around it.
- Share something about your business, so a reporter will see a story in your press release and write a news article about it.
- Promote your business online, via blogs, websites, and social networks.
Want to know more about press releases? Read: PR 101: What is a Press Release.
The elements of a killer event press release
Now you know what event press releases are all about, how do you go about writing one? You have two options: You can get an experienced PR pro to write one for you, or you can follow my step-by-step guide and go it alone.
To ensure it gets read, let’s look at how an event press release should be structured and break it down into steps.
1. Start with the release date
If you want people to attend your event, you’ve got to let them know about it, right? This is where your release date comes in to play. By specifying your release date, you’re telling media outlets when you want the information to go public.
There are two scenarios for the timing of your press release:
Write FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (yes, all in caps) in the header to let media outlets know you’re ready for them to publicise your event right away.
Or, if your event press release is time-sensitive, issue a media embargo. To do this, add ‘embargoed until [date]’ in the header. Embargoed releases are often used by companies that want to ensure information is released at the same time across a variety of media outlets.
2. Write an irresistible headline
Editors are busy folk. They receive hundreds of press releases every day. If a headline is boring, or it’s unclear what the release is about, they’ll pass on it.
Your headline needs to include a news hook to get the journalist’s attention. Take, for example, the headline of this press release, published on the Plant Based & Vegan News website in 2017:
‘Two vegan brothers to row Atlantic to raise awareness of skin cancer.’
This headline ticks all the boxes. We know what the event is without reading any further. The ambitious nature of the event also makes you want to find out more.
You want to do the same with your event press release.
3. Include a subhead
Your sub-heading should give more substance to the heading. But don’t overdo it. You have the body paragraphs to expand on the story.
Going back to our vegan brothers, their subhead reads:
‘The English brothers are hoping to raise awareness of skin cancer in the memory of their late father’.
We now know the motivation behind the event and have a good idea of what to expect from the press release.
4. Use images wisely
They say that a picture paints 1,000 words. So, why not enhance your event press release with a striking image? Include one near the top that most closely represents your event. If you have a video, embed that too.
Use multimedia sparingly, though, so as not to overwhelm the text.
5. Reel them in with your opening paragraph
If a reporter has got this far, they’re hooked. Now you must hold their attention. To do that, you should include all the information they need to decide if your event is for them.
This is where the 5 Ws come in. Use the opening paragraph to address the ‘who, what, when, where and why’ of your event. This is key information for journalists.
Going back to our vegan brothers again, their opening paragraph reads:
‘Two vegan brothers will go on a rowing trip across the Atlantic in 2018 in a bid to raise money for charity. If successful, the British brothers – Greg Bailey and Jude Massey – will become the first to row the Atlantic Ocean on a plant-based diet.’
This covers the 5 Ws and keeps the intrigue going, as we now also know this is a world-first attempt. The stakes are suddenly higher.
Tip: You want your event press release to be easy to understand, so avoid industry-specific phrases and jargon. If editors have to think too much about what you’re saying, they’ll quickly lose interest.
6. Flesh it out in the body
Now you’ve covered the basics, it’s time to flesh out the detail. The body of the press release will give you another three to five paragraphs to work with. Use them to expand on the points covered in the first paragraph and let people know what to expect at the event.
Use this section to set the scene and sell the experience. By the end of the body copy, the journalist and your target market should know exactly what to expect if they buy a ticket/register for a place.
A good example of body copy can be found in this press release by The Disruptive Creative Agency. Announcing a 4D immersive event. They’ve taken a quirky approach with their copy and it builds tension but doesn’t give everything away.
‘Spirits are awoken, and nightmares are realised as you embark on your battle through 12 rooms of sheer torture. These are YOUR darkest fears so prepare to take centre stage in scenes reminiscent of Hollywood’s most terrifying films where you become the victim… are you brave enough to step inside?
Fight your way through each zone of terror as the house throws up a chilling array of physical and psychological challenges. You’ll find yourself exorcising a demon as you witness a possessed girl’s head twist 360 degrees or take a wrong turning down Macabre Maze and meet a very sinister fate.
With areas including Sci-Fi-Die, Krow Killers, and Medical Madness, you’ll join forces with up to 10 friends to see who can make it out alive! Should you survive the ordeal, you will have the choice to enter the mysterious Room 13, a room so intense, visitors are required to sign a waiver before entering because of the torture endured inside.’
Tip: Put the most important information at the top, and the least important at the bottom like a pyramid. There’s a logical reason for writing it like this. When an editor needs to cut a story, they’ll cut from the bottom up.
7. Make the most of quotes
Include a few quotes in your event press release. They’re good to include as they’re the only thing journalists can’t change. So make the most of them by throwing in some strong key messages. Don’t repeat what’s already been said elsewhere in the press release but instead use them as an opportunity to emphasise the USPs of your event.
8. Include a call to action
A call to action (CTA) is a sentence in your event press release that tells your reader what you want them to do. In the case of an event, you could ask them to register, buy a ticket, or put it on their calendar.
When you do, talk directly to your reader: ‘Register today to guarantee a place.’
Going back to the Disruptive press release, they sign off with:
‘This is the most complete and crazy, unforgettable and unique spooktacular experience in the country… dare you enter the House of Horror? For more information and tickets, visit the website at www.houseofhorror.co.uk’
Be sure to include a link to your event website or landing page.
9. Include an end mark
All press releases end with a standard ### or -end-. Anything that follows is meant to be unprinted.
10. Add contact details
Include your name, email address and phone numbers. If a journalist has questions about the event, make it easy for them to get in touch with you.
11. Don’t forget the notes to editor
The final part of your event press release is the notes to editors. This is an ‘about you’ section and should be around 100 words in length. Use it to build credibility around yourself and your brand as an event planner or business. Here’s what to include:
- Who you are and what your company does
- Why you’re hosting the event
- A link to your website and social media
Follow best practice
Aside from the content in your press release, there are a few other things to bear in mind before distributing your event press release to the media. For more, read 7 Reasons Why Your Press Release is Getting Binned.
Proofread your event press release
Badly spelled event press releases will find their way into journalists’ bins, so check them thoroughly for spelling and grammar mistakes.
Tip: Bear in mind, journalists are time and resource poor, so make their job as easy as possible by providing ‘ready to publish’ copy. That way they won’t have to waste too much time double checking what you’ve written. And, if your press release is on point, they’re likely to come back to you in the future.
Optimise your press release
Include relevant keywords or phrases in your press release. They’re the search terms you want to rank for on Google or other search engines. So when people search for those keywords, they should find your press release.
For example, if you’re hosting an outdoor cooking event, your keywords might include BBQ, barbecue, outdoor event, grilling, etc.
Tip: Don’t overdo it. Going overboard on keywords will give your event press release a spammy, dense feeling, which you don’t want.
Don’t forget about the subject line
When you’re emailing a press release, the subject line can make or break a journalist’s decision to open the message. This is probably the most important line you will write, so make sure it’s impossible to resist.
Include your event press release in an electronic press kit
Hosting an electronic press kit (EPK) or media kit on your website saves time for you and the press when promoting an event. Your EPK should include promotional videos featuring the venue, your press release, high-quality images that represent your organisation, a programme of speakers with excerpts from their work, and so on. Tell your story through your media kit, giving both the press and attendees a taste of what to expect.
Want some more advice on press kits? Read: Ingredients of a Killer Press Kit for inspiration.
Or call in the pros
That’s how to write a press release for an event. But if want professional input, call me.