The human attention span is decreasing. About 15 years ago, researchers estimated that our attention span was an average of 12 seconds. These days, it is a hair over 8.
For better or for worse, organizations must take into account the attention span of their viewership. People only have so much patience for reading something before they get distracted and move on. That means that writing a press release is just as much about length as about content.
What is the ideal press release length? Of course, it will depend on what press release styles you are using, and who the intended audience is.
Keep reading as we discuss how you can decide on the length of a press release submission.
It’s important to understand what a press release is, and what it is not. A press release is not an in-depth article like the ones you might see on the Wall Street Journal. It shouldn’t be enough reading material to fill a lunch.
Rather, they are sweet and to the point for informative purposes. This is something a journalist can digest in a couple of minutes at most while perusing their typical news feed.
In the majority of cases, a press release is an informative announcement. It goes to those with a vested interest in the company, but primarily journalists keeping up with your organization. The intent is not to discuss the topic, just to make people aware.
Press releases can cover a wide variety of information, but here are some of the most common topics:
As we have said, press releases should be short and to the point. On average, a press release could be anywhere between 300 and 400 words total. Judging by the average adult’s reading speed, it should not take them any longer than two minutes to finish.
Depending on the type of formatting that you use, a press release of this length will take about a page of space. That makes it very easy to print and distribute in physical form if necessary.
Of course, this word count limit is not set in stone. Some press releases may be much shorter, such as 200 words. But once you get significantly above 400 words, you are entering the territory of a standard article.
Press releases most often come in the form of eReleases, which go straight to the press of various organizations and states. With this short length and simple formatting, it makes it easy for other organizations to incorporate it into their copy.
Think of a press release almost like a pre-screened question-and-answer session. You are trying to answer any questions that journalists or readers might possibly have.
Just as important as the overall length is nailing the individual components. A press release, just like any form of literature, has several distinct sections. Each needs to fall into a certain average word count to flow well and meet press standards.
A press release is very simple. You have an intro summary, a body with additional information, and closing comments.
The intro paragraph should be between 80 and 100 words. The body includes an additional 200 or so words. Your closing comments shouldn’t be longer than 100 words–ideally, they should be less.
The press release should lead with the main thrust of the article. Think of this as a summary of what the article is trying to achieve. The reader should be able to understand 90% of what you intend to say by reading this section alone.
In this fast-paced world, most journalists will only really read this section, and skim everything else. That’s why it’s important to be as precise and concise as you can be. Any extraneous details should wait until later in the press release.
Think of this as the who, what, where, and why of the article. Avoid the temptation to cram in anything that does not help to answer the most pertinent questions.
Remember, modern journalists are are very Internet savvy. They will not fall for clickbait titles that try to lure them into reading more than they really need to. Waste someone’s time, and they may ignore future press releases–a bad idea if you want the press to read them, after all.
Think of this section as the old bit of advice you might get about writing emails. People say to put everything that absolutely needs saying in the first sentence. In the same vein, the first paragraph is where that crucial information should go in a company press release.
This is why we recommend hiring someone to write your press releases. They will make sure anything not strictly necessary lands on the cutting room floor.
Your intro summary section should have told the reader what they absolutely must know. In many cases, they may click away since they feel satisfied with your answers. But ideally, you want them to continue reading for additional information.
As we mentioned, think of this almost like a question-and-answer session. Put yourself in the shoes of your journalist. Upon learning the new information presented at the beginning, what question would they ask next?
For example, suppose you are unveiling a new product lineup. Now journalists may have the following questions:
You can likely think of hundreds of questions just on your own. The point is, you anticipate the burning questions that are most likely to be on someone’s mind. Informing them now is essential, rather than leaving them in suspense–unless that’s intentional.
There is one standard that people expect to find at the end of every press release. This is a boilerplate affirmation that your company will append to every press release that you distribute.
This is a message to journalists about who you are, what you do, and what your industry position is. At this point, you should include some means for the press to contact you for further information. Typically, there will be a link or email address to your press/marketing department.
Depending on how big of an announcement it is, you may wish to link to a blog post that goes more in-depth. This is good informative practice. People should be able to get what they want from the press release and have the option to dive deeper if they so wish.
Last of all, you may choose to include some links to further information and invitations. This is the “CTA” of a press release, if you will. It is not for advertising purposes, but rather as a pointer to your website and more.
Before you send your press release off to the Internet, it’s important to run it through some of your people. Consider the following as you polish it for press consumption.
Many people have a tendency to go overboard with the details, including talented writers. It’s essential to do a couple of passes to cut any unnecessary content.
Here are some things that are best left on the cutting room floor:
On the whole, press release styles tend to be formal. There should be an absence of colloquialisms and conversational phrases. You want to avoid any catchy or snappy marketing speech that might appear in an advertisement, for example.
However, do not go overboard with the advanced vocabulary. This should be for general press readership, so limit how many esoteric terms you include. Again, consider your audience and how much surface level comprehension the average journalist has on topics related to your industry.
Naturally, you want to be very careful about anything that could land you in hot water. Have your legal team do a pass to ensure that you are not saying anything that puts you in peril of litigation.
Journalists in some cases will twist headlines to get eyeballs. A poorly-worded statement could make you into breaking news–and not the good kind.
Writing a press release is all about being concise, informative, and easy to understand. Press release length should hover around 400 words, with less being ideal. Make sure you were only saying what you need to, and putting additional information elsewhere such as in links in the conclusion.
eReleases can handle your press releases and distribute them to the audiences you need. Take a look at our case studies and testimonials to see how we can boost your ROI.