Writing a press release is not as simple as the average person might think. It includes following a particular format (headline, date, location, summary, media use, information about the company), but also a set of standard writing style you should stick to. For example, you should create a proper AP style press release (Associated Press Style press release).
Any guesses on what that means? If not, keep on reading and find out how to make sure your press releases follow the standard rules.
What Is a Press Release Format in AP Style?
An AP style press release means an Associated Press-style press release. The Associated Press is one of the largest nonprofit news agencies in the world. Based in New York, the AP has editing and style rules that print news publications follow. It publishes a style guide every year that instructs journalists how to format their text for AP content. The purpose is that all sides of content presentation are standard, no matter who is writing the story.
While AP style rules aren’t the only recommended rules to stick to, they are the most commonly followed in the journalism and media industry. The Associated Press also has set special standards for press releases, which will be discussed further.
Why Should You Stick to AP Style Writing a Press Release?
Yes, it seems trivial. Who cares if you apply all the AP’s suggestions correctly? Well, first, editors do. And since you want them to buy your story, you need to follow their rules. Sounds convincing, doesn’t it?
Second, read this message:
The Numismatic and Philatelic Office of the Governorate of Vatican City will issue thousands of sets of four stamps, each stamp featuring a detail from the painting “Resurrection of Christ” by Perugino, and 220,000 copies of a leaflet.
Does this information grab you? Are you interested in reading further this post? Have you seen this story anywhere in the media? Neither have I. If you want to avoid such issues, follow the rules, described below.
Following a strict AP press release format is crucial. A story that includes clear writing and newsworthy content deserves attention. So, don’t ignore the formulaic structure of press releases. There is nothing wrong if you haven’t written a press release yet. Checking out an AP style press release example is a great way to get inspired.
Rules for a AP Style Press Release
Because a press release must be concise, you have to put your attention to each element. Referencing the AP Stylebook is a great way to ensure all press release elements are met, ultimately increasing your chances of having your story published. Using AP style will show a high level of professionalism.
There are two sets of rules, which relate to:
- The content of the certain press release
- The format for each section of the press release
Here are the key rules all journalists and copywriters must pay attention to:
The headline is key for catching attention and gaining an audience. It is crucial because it tells readers what the post is about, and it should be convincing to grab the reader’s attention.
A strong first paragraph
The opening paragraph, or the lead, must give you an idea of the point of the press release.
The five Ws of journalism
A press release is concise and highlights an important piece of information. That’s why an opening paragraph of a press release should cover the five Ws:
- and sometimes How
You should cover the most important facts first and follow with details.
The inverted pyramid style of writing
In an inverted pyramid, the base lies at the top and the point is located at the bottom. In terms of writing a press release by using an inverted pyramid style, the headline and most crucial information should be put at the start of the story, not at the end.
AP style has clear rules about the date and location of a press release. Adhere to the style required and AP abbreviations. For example, in AP style, the dates for some months use abbreviations, like Aug. 10, 2023. States use the postal abbreviations, so FLA for Florida. Datelines from major cities, such as Los Angeles, don’t need to include the state.
There are different rules about punctuation in AP style. Most will relate to using commas.
In the UK, Canada and elsewhere, you should use a comma at the end of every serial element in a sentence:
I had ice cream, fruit, and coffee for breakfast.
In the USA, and in AP style, you should omit the last comma (sometimes called the Oxford comma):
I had ice cream, fruit and coffee for breakfast.
It’s better to avoid using first or second-person pronouns, such as you or yours. The AP Stylebook has strict guidelines regarding this part of speech. All press releases and news stories have to be written in the third- person only.
AP style specifies rules for how numbers should be written. You should spell out numbers from 1 to 9. After that, use numerals, like 10, 15, or 22. However, write out the full number if it goes at the beginning of a sentence. For example: Ten children were injured when . . . In headlines, use numerals for numbers 10 and above..
Avoid choosing uncommon fonts. Instead, use the basics like Times New Roman or Arial. This is obligatory because media organizations use these fonts when publishing articles. Also, your font sizes matter and should only be one point apart in size: e.g., your headline should be 14, your subhead should be 13, and your body should be 12.
All headlines and subheads should be typed in the title case. For example: Nonprofit Launches New Charity Coat Drive. This rule only applies to headlines and subheads. Other capitalizations should only be used for proper nouns.
When quoting somebody in an AP style news release, use their full name and title when first introducing them. For example: Adam Lawrence, CTO of the company, said, “This is a big breakthrough in the e-gaming industry.” After the first introduction, you can just mention him as Lawrence.
Press Release Template AP style
This is just one of the many press release templates available on the Internet. If you need some inspiration for writing your own press release, feel free to grab it!
Download AP Style Press Release Example:
Steps to Write a Press Release in AP Style
- Plan your press release content
Before you start creating your official press release, determine the most basic information you want to transmit. A press release often is one to two pages long.
- Determine your target audience
By defining your target audience’s age, interest, gender, values, and income, you will be able to understand what content they are interested in.
- Create a headline
The headline should be put on top of the press release and placed in the center of the page. Because it grabs the reader’s attention, usually it goes in bold text and is between 65 and 80 characters long.
- Compose a descriptive subhead
The subhead is slightly longer than the headline, including around 120 characters. Generally, the subhead is italicized and follows the headline. Use the subhead for an additional explanation of your headline. Check if both your headline and subhead include keywords, as journalists and readers can use these words to easily discover more information through search engines.
- Start your body.
In the body of the press release, you should put all of the necessary information about the event.
The press release body should always start with a date and location. These sections should be in bold because it helps journalists or editors see when this story is ready for release or not. When adding the location, make sure your city goes in all caps and your state is abbreviated. Don’t forget that your first paragraph should answer all five Ws.
- Feature a quote
It’s also helpful to add a feature quote that helps to make the news more exciting and credible. The quoted person must be identified with their title and the name of the company or organization they represent. This detail gives more credibility and offers journalists direct quotes from business leaders involved in the event. Remember, a quote should only consist of two sentences.
- Remaining Body Section
The remaining part of the body section should include different media content. Photos, audio, and videos will help you to stand out on both search engines and social media. You should avoid inserting more than two of these media contents in your press release. If you are sending your press release through email, it’s better to place links to the attached media contents so that they can be reached in their original sources and forms.
- Add a boilerplate
A boilerplate is a short description of the company or organization. Locating at the bottom of the press release, this “about” section includes information about the background of the company. This part should be written no longer than 100 words. Finish your boilerplate with a link to the company website.
- Finish with an endnote
At the very bottom of the press release, it’s important to include the media contact’s details, as well as the business they represent. It would be appropriate to use a single sentence similar to “For more information, contact us at [phone number] or [email address].”
Finally, you should finish your press release with three-pound signs (also called as a hash) to show your readers that they have reached the end of the story. It will look something like this: ###
- Check the documents settings
One-inch margins should be used for all sides of your press release document. Check your grammar and punctuation. It’s better to use only one space after punctuation — not two.
- Add the company logo
Insert the company logo at the top and center of your press release.
- Determine who to send your press release to
The success of a well-designed press release has a lot to do with the destination the press release is sent to. Because media platforms receive thousands of stories each day, your press release will not be in demand by every publication. It’s wise to send your press release to a media stock that is popular among your target audience.
- Distribute your story
With the distribution of a press release, your chances of transferring your press release to targeted media platforms and journalists are much higher. In addition, the distribution service takes all responsibilities, giving users a generic template that is already set in the proper format.
- Provide release instructions
A release date is one that you choose for your press release to get published. Add your timeline in the top left corner of your story all in caps.
A press release must start with the title “News Release,” followed by “FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE.” This detail indicates that the information listed in your story is ready for immediate use. However, if you’re drafting an embargoed press release, it’s better to write “NOT FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE” or “EMBARGOED FOR RELEASE,” followed by the actual publication date.
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An AP style press release is an official announcement from an organization sent to the press. It is used by companies of all types that want to announce events, important changes, product releases, and more. A correctly formatted and distributed AP style press release can significantly increase an organization’s awareness and improve public relationships, while also growing its customer base.
Do you format your press releases for AP? Are any other rules you consider to be the most important? Feel free to leave a comment about it.
FAQ: AP Style Press Release
What is Associated Press style?
The Associated Press (AP) style is a set of instructions that regulates the way media stocks, PR companies, and journalists draw up their stories or press releases.
Do you capitalize in a press release?
Yes. All headlines and subheads should be in the title case, meaning most words need to start with a capital letter.
Where are datelines located in a press release?
The opening sentence of the lead paragraph should begin with the date and location. The location of the event should cover the city and state the press release originated.
What font should press releases to be in?
According to the AP guidelines, you should choose common fonts like Times New Roman or Arial.
What is the AP Press Release Template?
This is the standard press release format you should follow to make your story news.
How to Format a Press Release AP Style?
Getting the media coverage you seek is not easy and requires a bit of work and effort. Yet, following the AP Stylebook rules, will help you get more media pickups.
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