How to Write An Effective Press Release

By Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer

As more businesses favor social media channels for timely business communications, you may think press releases have become outdated or old-fashioned. You might even ask yourself, “Do we even need press releases anymore?” 

The answer is an unequivocal “Yes.”

Consumers and journalists still view press releases as one of the most trustworthy sources of brand-related information.

What’s more, consistently distributing press releases to the right media outlets allows healthcare organizations to build credibility with journalists and patients. 

Businesses that leverage social media to promote their press releases further boost traffic to their website, build search engine traffic, and increase public relations activity (e.g. radio and television interviews or quotes in newspapers and other publications). 

In this blog post, you’ll learn:

  • When and why you still need press releases,
  • How to write an effective press release (with best practices + SEO Tips),
  • How to distribute, share and repurpose your press release for maximum exposure 

Why You Need a Press Release

A press release is a quick and easy tool for generating publicity about a newsworthy event or topic in the most objective way possible. 

It’s also the most cost-effective form of advertising—press releases sent with local distribution via HealthcareDive start at $279.

“The purpose of distributing an official press release is to reach thousands of publications at once so that one or more media outlets will pick up your newsworthy topic and write about it,” says Melanie Saxe, Director of Content at Healthcare Success. 

“Since it’s written in the style of a news article, press releases are easy wins for journalists looking for a quick way to turn around an article.” 

There are many benefits of publishing press releases. They are remarkably effective tools for controlling the narrative during a crisis or public health event. They halt speculation, build trust, and establish a central source of accurate information.

Additional benefits of writing and distributing newsworthy press releases include:

  • Free promotion on various media sites and blogs
  • Increased traffic to your website
  • Higher Rankings in Google News
  • Improved company trust and credibility
  • Stronger brand identity.
  • Exclusivity not available through social media communication alone.

“From a marketing perspective, it’s valuable content that can be repurposed and shared in various ways to boost brand awareness and generate demand for your healthcare services or products,” says Melanie. 

Learning how to write an effective press release increases your expertise, authority, and trustworthiness, all three of which are quality metrics important for Google SERPs (search engine results pages). 

When You Need a Press Release

A press release is a great tool to leverage when you want to reveal something new or newsworthy. 

Newsworthiness means a topic captures the attention of both media publications and your target audience. This typically involves timely, relevant, or impactful information or events that directly affect people in our local community or region.

Newsworthy topics and ideas

If you have an update, announcement, or message, it’s crucial to ensure it’s interesting enough to engage your audience. 

To get started, Melanie recommends communicating with your marketing or community relations department to promote internally and across social channels to maximize exposure.

Next, always make sure you get administrative support and approval before submitting the press release.

Here are 14 newsworthy topics to consider for healthcare brands:

  1. New product (e.g., new technology) or service launch
  2. Milestones, specials, or promotions
  3. Events and charity work announcements
  4. Grand openings, new locations, or expansions 
  5. New partnerships
  6. Rebranding
  7. New staff, promotions, executive promotions, or employment opportunities 
  8. Awards, recognitions, and certifications
  9. Crisis management (and prevention)
  10. Tying current services to a new health or medical study
  11. Proprietary research or study findings relevant to your business
  12. Current events relevant to your business
  13. Something that appeals to the entire readership of the publication
  14. Human interest stories (tear jerkers)

Once you have a topic that’s worthy to write about, it’s time to write the press release.

How to Write an Effective Press Release 

“A press release is one of those content pieces with a strict format,” says Melanie. “There’s only one right way to write a press release.”

Let’s walk through a press release template, so you’re prepared to promote newsworthy topics, tie them to trending news topics, increase brand awareness, and drive more targeted traffic to your website.

Press Release Template for Healthcare

Here is a step-by-step guide for writing a press release:

1. Write an engaging headline

Capture your audience’s attention with an engaging headline that clearly states the topic. Stand out even more with compelling action verbs.

2. First paragraph do’s and don’ts

Before beginning any press release, identify the city, state, and date to help the reader identify its timeliness and relevance. This information is placed in parenthesis and followed immediately by the first paragraph, which should be to the point and communicate the newsworthy announcement.

The first paragraph is typically 1-2 sentences and answers who, what, when, where, why, and how (five “W’s” and one “H”). It should be written as facts, focusing on why it’s important, useful, or valuable to the audience. While not a hard and fast rule, answering these questions upfront allows the reader to fully understand your press release.

3. Remaining body copy

The second paragraph expands on the first paragraph, provides additional background information, acts as the foundation for the rest of the press release, and includes any five “W’s” and one “H” not explained in the first paragraph.

The third and fourth (and beyond) paragraphs include additional and supporting information. The third paragraph is optimal placement for a doctor, executive, or internal stakeholder quote. If appropriate, add highlights or break down the details with bullet points in these paragraphs. 

Include a summary in the final paragraph and a clear call-to-action (CTA). The CTA should identify the next steps the audience needs to take or where they can find more information.

4. About your company

This is the boilerplate “about us” content for your company. This section must always include your company contact information, so the media can reach your company quickly and easily for any follow-up questions.

With your topic and template ready, use the following best practices as a checklist to edit and fine-tune your press release.

15 Press Release Best Practices

  1. Use your company/hospital/healthcare organization letterhead.
  2. Write an engaging but concise headline. Two hundred eighty characters should be your upper limit; however, it’s important to remember Google search results only display the first 55-70 characters.
  3. Include your company/hospital/organization name in the headline.
  4. Integrate the five “Ws” and one “H” in the first 1-2 paragraphs.
  5. Choose a perspective that will matter to your target audience (e.g., readers, journalists).
  6. Write in first-person.
  7. Use double-spacing.
  8. Add keywords and supporting keywords.
  9. Keep bullet points to 1–3 concise sentences.
  10. Write simple, short sentences and short paragraphs. 
  11. Do not include marketing or industry jargon. 
  12. Include valuable research or background information.
  13. Include relevant images, headshots, videos, or links to supporting content. Remember to tie links to relevant text (e.g., avoid vague links like “Click here.”) and limit them to 1-3 per press release.
  14. Review for spelling and grammar.
  15. Always end with contact information.

6 SEO Best Practices for Press Releases

    1. Conduct competitive research. Review and emulate competitor press releases. Analyze and target the same (or similar) keywords.

    2. Include keywords. Research relevant keywords and include them in your title, introduction, and throughout the content of your press release. Keywords are essential for getting your press release found by users and search engines.

    3. Bold and hyperlink the first instance of SEO keywords. This will help boost your organic SEO rankings and gain clicks to relevant content.

    4. Include relevant content within the first 250 words. Placing the most relevant content upfront helps search engine algorithms understand your press release, and humans understand and engage with your message.

    5. Optimize link use. A press release is the same as a paid link in Google’s eyes. Including certain types of links in press releases is considered spam. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

    a. Do include one navigational link pointing to your website in your press release.

    b. Do not include transactional links; instead, use clear attributes such as rel=” nofollow” or rel=” sponsored” to alert search engines they are not being used to support SEO.

    6. Optimize visual elements. Include keywords in file names, captions, and alt text to help Google understand what your image is, how it relates to your press release content, and why it’s important.

    How to Properly Publish and Distribute Your Press Release

    Here are three tips for distributing, sharing, and repurposing your press release for maximum exposure: 

    1. Select a press release distribution service. 

    Selecting the right distribution service is essential for maximizing your exposure, especially industry-specific content. Here are a few things to consider when shopping around. The distribution company should include:

      • Industry-specific (e.g., healthcare industry and publications) channels
      • Budget-friendly pricing
      • Reporting capabilities
      • A list of media outlets (e.g., news websites, aggregators, media outlets, news content systems, and all major news sites)
      • Your intended/targeted audience
      • Extra features (e.g., customizable, interactive content and the ability to add multimedia to your press release)
      • Customer support (e.g., technical, proofreading, or editorial support)
      • Reporting (e.g., actionable information, data, and metrics)
      • Search and SEO visibility
      • A secure and easy to use platform

    2. Post published press releases on your website.

    Once you’ve submitted your press release to your selected distribution company, post a summary on your website, either in the news or media section on your site. This will support SEO efforts, drive more traffic to your website, improve domain authority, and increase brand recognition.

    3. Share published press releases via social media and email.

    If your social media followers find your press release relevant and valuable, they will likely share it with friends, significantly and positively impacting website traffic. Likewise, sharing your press release to your list of patients, colleagues, and other community members via email keeps your hospital or organization top of mind and educates them about newsworthy events and topics. This strategy results in email forwarding to friends and family and driving new traffic to your website.

    Tips on How to Repurpose & Share Your Press Release

    While there is always the option to write and distribute your newsworthy events and topics yourself, using a PR firm—especially if you are facing a crisis or want enduring coverage—can help maximize your exposure. However, it is important to note that few work on a one-off basis, and most require retainers. 

    I think it’s also essential for healthcare brands to remember that members of the press are not your friends—and do not consider themselves your publicist. They don’t necessarily care about your business; however, they care a great deal about sharing newsworthy stories. Maximize the shareability of your press release by publishing emotional, timely topics that journalists won’t be able to ignore.

    If you need help in this area, just ask us for a referral.

    Now that you understand how to write an effective press release, let’s talk about how to repurpose and share it effectively. 

    • Contact your favorite publications personally.
      While journalists might see your press release on distribution day, it’s always best practice to email your favorite publications and journalists ahead of time. Hospitals and other larger entities often develop relationships with reporters over time. Give them a heads up, so they have the opportunity to request more information and plan additional coverage about your announcement—otherwise, you run the risk of them not noticing it.
    • Share all positive media coverage.
      Along with sharing your actual press release, keep the excitement going by sharing any positive media coverage via social media channels and email updates.
    • Write a blog post about your press release.
      Once your press release has been distributed, you can post it on your blog. This enables you to send a follow-up email to your patient list and include links to important media coverage.

      Since you aren’t limited to a specific word count on your blog, this is also a terrific opportunity to expand on particular points or direct your site visitors to other web pages for more information.

    Blogging about your press release topic will also support SEO, driving more traffic to your website, improving domain authority, and increasing brand recognition.  

    Increase your brand’s credibility and thought leadership by consistently distributing newsworthy press releases to industry-specific publications and major news outlets. Then leverage digital channels (e.g., social media, website, and email) to elevate your brand and messaging.

    If you need help learning how to write an effective press release or choosing a press release distribution company, just ask us for a referral.

    Stewart Gandolf

    Chief Executive Officer at Healthcare Success

    Stewart Gandolf, MBA, is Chief Executive Officer of Healthcare Success, one of the nation’s leading healthcare and digital marketing agencies. Over the past 20 years, Stewart has marketed and consulted for over 1,000 healthcare clients, ranging from practices and hospitals to multi-billion dollar corporations. A frequent speaker, Stewart has shared his expertise at over 200 venues nationwide. As an author and expert resource, Stewart has also written for many leading industry publications, including the 21,000 subscriber Healthcare Success Insight blog. Stewart also co-authored, “Cash-Pay Healthcare: Start, Grow & Perfect Your Cash-Pay Healthcare Business.” Stewart began his career with leading advertising agencies, including J. Walter Thompson, where he marketed Fortune 500 clients such as Wells Fargo and Bally’s Total Fitness.

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