Press Releases – How to Write Them

Have you got a story?

The first thing you need to think about when writing a press release is the ‘news’ value. Does your story merit a press release and have you got the right angle to appeal to journalists? If not then don’t waste your time or risk damaging your reputation with journalists. So, identify whether your ‘news’ has the key elements that a journalist will look for in a story i.e. human interest. Think about the audience you are aiming at and what will be of interest to them.

What should go into a press release?

The challenge is to answer the following questions about your news:

* Who? – Who are the key players? Who does your news affect/bring benefit to?

* What? – What is it that is new/different?

* Why? – Why is this important/news?

* Where? – Where is this happening? Is geography/location relevant?

* When? – What is the timing of this, does this add significance?

* How? – How did this come about?

Writing down the answers to these questions can be helpful – it’s then a matter of putting them together in short punchy sentences. You need to get the essence of your story in the first paragraph. Editors edit from the bottom of a press release up. So, it is essential to ensure that your ‘news’ is up front – it’s better to get your first paragraph printed than no paragraph at all.

How do I structure and present the release?

Once you have decided that you have a story to tell you need to draft your release abiding by very clear rules designed to make it as easy as possible for journalists to use your material:

* Highlight at the top of the release the issue date – an embargo should only be used if necessary

* Give your release a title

* Use double spacing with wide margins – to help the journalist in making notes

* Write as few paragraphs as possible to get your points across with a maximum of two pages

* Signal the end of the press release with the word ‘Ends’ – in bold

* After ‘Ends’ you should write ‘For further information, please contact:’ and list the contact details of someone who is available to give more information about the story

* You should include any additional background information in ‘Notes to editors’ underneath the contact information.

The test of success is whether the story can be understood in its entirety if only the first paragraph was reproduced in print. The second paragraph expands on information in the first, giving a bit more detail. Often, the third paragraph provides a quote. The fourth paragraph would then outline final information such as referencing to websites and ordering etc, other products in development etc, general information about the organisation.

What type of writing style should I use?

The release should be factual in tone, short and concise with sentences that are a maximum of 25 words in length. It’s useful to research and analyze any publications you are targeting. If you can match their style then you have a better chance of your press release being used, as long as it is newsworthy. For issuing to broadcast journalists the same rules apply in terms of writing and presentation.

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