Press Release Writing Basics

Writing a good press release may be a Fine Art, but it also isn’t Rocket Surgery. Any seasoned PR professional will tell you that the real key is to approach the press release process from the point of view of a journalist.

The journalist’s world is commonly filled with short deadlines and a literal flood of press releases competing for their attention. A typical news room will get hundreds of press releases per day, and all but a very few will end up somewhere other than the trash can. What can you do to give your news the best shot at making the cut?

I’d like to share some tips for writing a press release that will help it stand out. From newcomers to the PR game to seasoned professionals, these basics are always good to learn and refresh your memory on from time to time.

1st Commandment Of Press Releases
The cardinal rule in PR is “make sure that the story in your press release is really newsworthy.” The trap business owners often fall into is that they don’t consider that news to them is not necessarily news (or even interesting) to the rest of the world. So take a moment to step back and put yourself in a journalists shoes.

Journalists and news agencies compete based on getting the hottest and freshest news stories. Before covering a story, they ask themselves: “Would my audience care?”, “Does this give a fresh perspective to a current hot subject?”, “Is this a big story that hasn’t been covered?” The list goes on, but you get the picture – they are in business, and good stories are their commodity.

Quick Tips
Ok, so you have stepped back, looked at your story and decided that it is newsworthy. PR is not a one shot game, but the real benefit is an ongoing campaign. Ideally, you will regularly be able to find stories relating to your companies activities that will pass the litmus test above. Before we get into formatting your release, some quick tips:

  1. Cut the jargon! Even seasoned PR professionals and business owners fall into this trap. To make the news seem more interesting, or out of a subconscious desire to seem creditable, people start to use complex words when simple words would suffice … or worse, start making words up! Journalists keep their writing at a 4th grade level, you should too.
  2. Write your release to be published. Some PR professionals, like to say that journalists are lazy. This isn’t the case, but they are busy and often times will repackage your release and publish it. Keep your release short and to the point, but make sure that it is complete and tells the story much like a short article would … it may actually end up being published as a short article.

Formatting

As I have mentioned, newsrooms are flooded with press releases. An editor goes through reams of press releases everyday and winnows them down to just a handful of candidates for coverage. By following the 1st commandment you have made sure your story is worth covering – but how do you write the release to make sure it is noticed, and then covered well.

Here are the elements you want in your press release:

  1. Release Approval: At the very top – “FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE” or rarely “FOR RELEASE ON {DATE}” … This is common practice and tells the media that it is ok to publish the story. It won’t get you covered, but is a good practice to follow.
  2. Contact Info: Include contact name, title, e-mail address, website address, and phone numbers. The phone numbers and e-mail address should be monitored closely and the contact person should be easily reached … remember, journalists lives are ruled by very short deadlines.
  3. Logo: Another element that isn’t going to get you coverage, but is actually very important. As your campaign progresses and you prove yourself to only send interesting stories, your logo will become a clue to the busy editor to stop and take a look at the release you have sent.
  4. Headline: This is a major opportunity to make your release stand out. Write your headline like it is a newspaper headline. Seriously, look at newspaper headlines and emulate. Put in a larger (14pt – 16pt) font and bold to stand out as a headline. You can even add a sub-headline. This is to grab the newsroom’s attention and interest.
  5. First paragraph: Get to the point and show your newsworthiness. Even if your headline worked, this still may be the only paragraph skimmed. Answer the question, “What is the story and why is it important.”
  6. Body: Get into further details. Not the whole story, but enough that the release can be repackaged by the news agency as a story. Include concrete facts to support all claims.
  7. Quotes: Quotes are a key part of the press release that are all too often missing. Make sure to include several attributed quotes that emphasize the points made in the body. Often, quotes in the press release are the quotes published in the story … as such they are a necessity
  8. “###” or “–END–”: End markings are a hold-over from old transmission methods via news wires and are completely unnecessary. Feel free to include them at the end of your release for fun, or just for a little nostalgia for the days of ticker tape.
  9. Boilerplate: After your press release content, in smaller font, give a description of your business … essentially your elevator pitch. This gives a quick background to the journalist of where this news is coming from and puts you in context with the story. Make sure to include your website again. (Journalists love scouring your website, and you should love that they do.)

PR campaigns not only ‘get the word out’ about your business but also are a free organic advertising channel for your business that will have a positive impact on your bottom line. Following the tips above, your release will stand the best chance to help enhance your business.

nd-headshot Nicholas DeGraff
Marketing Manager

Currently serves as a Marketing Manager with a focus in online marketing and market strategy. Prior to joining Pacific Business Centers (rebranded as Pacific Workplaces), Nick consulted with small businesses to assist in a business development and public relations role.

2018-02-15T14:02:26+00:00 December 11th, 2009|Entrepreneurs, Press/Media|