Putting Your Best Foot Forward: Techniques for Constructing a Press Release (Article/Tips)

Posted by on Jan 16, 2015 |

"Power of Words"  by Antonio Litterio.Every month, I get contacted by folks wanting us  to help publicize their films, projects, and web series.  While we have our S.E.A.R. services, which includes information about submitting a press release, one of the things that results in the most confusion is what exactly IS a “press release.”  In truth, if I didn’t deal with them all the time, I might be just as confused as everyone else.

There’s an assumption by Independent creatives that press releases are advertisements about your new content or project or service that are designed to get people to want to use your project.  This is sort of true, but also sort of untrue.

The reality is that press releases were originally invented to lure press organizations into running stories about your project–and, hopefully, if it made them excited, that excitement would transfer to how they covered the story, which in turn would lure other people to try out your product or get involved with your project.  Because these might be daily interest pieces or other short works in special interest magazines or local news shows, it was important to boil down the most interesting elements and then be able to win over a hardboiled journalist who’d read “it all” before.

While a lot of Indie press releases are self-published in our modern day of blogs and Facebook and the like, this self-publication model, without any gatekeepers, has actually allowed a lot of subpar material to be presented as a press release.  This makes it more important than ever that you understand how press releases are designed to work, because, now, every person with a strong following in Facebook or Twitter is, essentially, a press organization.  The internet has made normal people just as jaded as the old school Perry Whites and J. Jonah Jamisons of the world, so you have to bring your A game to the party if you want to stand out from all the folks who don’t understand press releases.

If you’re creating a press release that’s designed to win over the person who reads it in three paragraphs or less and then excites them enough to tell other people about it, it’ll change how you create press releases.

But, before you can do that, you’ll need to understand how to actually craft the press release into the format that a hundred years of public relations has refined.

Getting Started:

Research the media outlets you’re going to approach.  Customize the intro letter to fit the organization, so they easily see how it fits in with their demographic.  (You may even want to have a few different versions of your press release that highlight different aspects, sort of like having different resumes for different types of companies.)

Have your press release properly formatted and saved as a Word Document–either *.doc or *.docx, NOT *.PDF .  MFM requires this, but some organizations don’t use attached docs.  Fortunately, it’s easy to do both.  Just paste your formatted press release into the email below your greeting–so those who want to read it on their mobile can–AND attach the press release file–so organizations who need it have it handy.

Attach at least one high resolution image to your email as a JPG file.  At MFM, we actually require two: A main image that is 1000 pixels wide by 400 pixels high that serves as header image and a second that’s used for our special front banners which is 960 px wide by 600 px high.

Include a YouTube link of something related to your event at the end of your press release.  In the world of modern media press releases, having an image and a video in a press release increases the likelihood of it being viewed by readers tremendously.  Press organizations want to encourage readership and viewership, so show them that you want to help them make it easier to do this.

Now we’ll move on the basic structural and mechanical elements of formatting. 


  • Use an EASY to read font type.  The two current standards are: Arial and Times New Roman.  Size: 12 point font.  (Most press organizations will delete a press release if it isn’t easy to read and these two are the easiest.)
  • All press releases start with a headline that’s designed to first attract Press Attention, and then attract viewer attention.

    New Look at British Invasion Lets Fans Participate

  • Follow this with a subtitle that explains more.

    Pennsylvania Native Filmmaker, Kenneth Crow, Crowdfunds Beatles Documentary

  • The beginning of press releases should start with City, State (bolded) – Date (italicized) – Paragraph 1.

    Philadelphia, PA – October 12, 2016 – Filmmaker Kenneth Crow has been working toward a goal: to show…

  • Press releases are written in the third person omniscient to show objectivity. (As such, after referring to the full name of the creator in the first sentence, use the last name of creator, not the first name.)

    Filmmaker Kenneth Crow has been working toward a goal: to show people a new side of the Beatles.  In order to make this a reality, Crow has been been meeting with numerous agencies and talent associations to participate in his upcoming documentary, Birth of a Phenomenon, for weeks…

  • Titles of movies, shows, and albums are put in italics. (Anything that could stand on its own in a local library.) Titles of short stories, short films, individual episodes, and individual songs are all put in “quotes.” (Anything that would be COMPILED into something in a local library, such as a collection of short stories, an album of songs, a season of individual episodes, etc.)

    When looking for inspiration, Crow looked at feature films like Fight Club and The Matrix, but didn’t hesitate to draw from short films like Mike Flanagan’s “Oculus” and the Verava Brother’s, “Tumbleweed.”

  • Quotations are included in their own paragraphs and usually italicized.

    As far as the project is concerned, former Beatle Paul McCartney said:

    “I think it’s wonderful that he’s got such an enthusiasm for this.  I remember when we were just getting started, we never thought anyone would’ve wanted to make a documentary like this about us.  Pretty different from the Yellow Submarine days, I can tell you that!”

  • Include link URLs in parentheses beside any embedded links your document. (Most modern content management systems automatically remove links when content is pasted in, so this helps editors restore any links that are lost).

    …fans are encouraged to check out the film’s website (www.birthphenom.com) and vote on their thoughts…

  • About the Creator or About the Company goes at the END of the article—not the beginning–and always includes at least a link to the official website.

    About Kenneth Crow
    A filmmaker with a love for music, Kenneth Crow has been making films for 30 years in Pennsylvania, PA.  To learn more about him, go to the official Kenneth Crow Website (www.kennethcrow.com) .

Additional things to Remember:

  • Ideal length for press releases is 300-400 words
  • Most follow a four section model: Need/Problem, Solution, Future, and About the Creator/Company.

    Paragraph 1 – Need for a movie about the Beetles and desire for this to happen.
    Paragraph 2 – The upcoming kickstarter campaign will allow them the money to make this great film.
    Paragraph 3 – If the kickstarter is really successful, fans can look forward to these additional things being included with the project.
    About the Creator – Who the creator is.

  • Make sure that dates are adjusted for upcoming events correctly, so that things that have already happened aren’t written as though they WILL happen.
  • Press releases for crowdfunding are much more effective if sent out at least 1 week before crowdfunding starts, not after your event has already begun.  (Most media outlets will take a period of time to get out press releases, so you don’t want to be turning it in after your event has already begun or you might lose a lot of potential momentum.)

The Art of the Press Release

This article has shown you the technical elements of the press release, but it hasn’t even attempted to touch the ART of the press release.  Much more intelligent people that I have written numerous books on the subjects.

However, if you really want to learn the art of the press release, read GOOD press releases. To get you started, look at this Magic Bullet Suite 12 release we published recently, which, aside from lacking a top image and being a little long (due to the fact that it’s a compound product with multiple individual products within it), is almost perfect as far as what we look for.

Now, go and look at the press releases for some of the biggest companies in the market by doing a google search for “Press Release” followed by “Paramount” or “Adobe” or “Nintendo” or “Bethesda Softworks” or “Lionsgate.” See which ones make you want to tell other people about what you just read.  Once you find those, save copies of them and pour over them, noticing how they word things and how they show things to the reader.

As you do this, you’ll have a better understanding of how things should be written–and you’ll also find areas you can eventually improve on, once you understand the basics of engaging with people and with the press.

Ready to submit something to MFM?

Go to our Publicize Page and contact us!

Image Credit: "Power of Words" by Antonio Litterio, License: CC BY-SA 3.0.

The director of two feature length films and half a dozen short films, Jeremy Hanke founded MicroFilmmaker Magazine to help all no-budget filmmakers make better films. The second edition of his well-received book on low-budget special effects techniques, GreenScreen Made Easy, (which he co-wrote with Michele Yamazaki) is being released by MWP in fall 2016. He's curently working on the sci-fi collaborative community, World of Depleted, and directed the debut action short in this series, Depleted: Day 419 .