How to write a press release

There are so many guides to writing press releases that I am sure I’m not saying anything new here. However, I’ve decided to publish this because I’ve found that many marketing students finish CIM courses with some gaps in terms of understanding the practicalities of public relations. Hopefully this quick guide will help them on the way to having a more holistic approach to marketing communications.

The role of the press release:

A press release is not intended to be published word for word. In fact 91% of the time a journalist will re-write a press release. They may also look for a different angle, for example by calling a stakeholder and asking for another view.

The release is a tool that suggests a story and gives a clear, concise overview of how this story can be told.  The news editor who is the first person to read the release must think “Wow, interesting story, easy to tell”… so before writing your release ask yourself if your news fits this bill?

Once you’ve confirmed that your story is newsworthy it’s time to write the release.

Put simply, the release should answer:

What is happening?
Who is involved?
Where is it happening?
When is it happening?
Why is it happening?

Choose a headline that sums up what the story is about. Keep it short and simple so it grabs the reader’s attention.

The first paragraph should expand on the headline and make the reader want to continue reading.  Don’t try to answer all of who, what and when etc in this paragraph but do select one or two of the most important facts.

Remember:

Sentences should be 25-30 words long.  Use straightforward English and avoid jargon.

The rest of the release should follow with each paragraph providing a bit more detail.  You should think of the release like an inverted triangle:

Inverted Pyramid Writing

Quoting someone can make the story more personal and should be presented with a colon beforehand and in speech marks:

Katie Underhill, tutor at Bournville College said: “It was a pleasure to teach the marketing course because the students were so enthusiastic.

“I am delighted with the exam results this year. The students worked hard and deserved success”. 

Format:

Put the words: PRESS RELEASE at the top
Add the date that you want your release to be published or put FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
At the end of the release put ENDS
Then put EDITORS NOTES to include more information about your company or anything else that the editor may need to know about that doesn’t fit nicely in the release itself
Then put your contact details. 

When you are done, ask yourself the following questions:

Was my information newsworthy?
Did I tell my audience that the information is intended for them and why they should continue to read it?
Did I ask myself: “How are people going to relate to this and will they be able to connect?”
Did I make the first 10 words of my release effective?
Did I avoid jargon?
Did I provide my contact information?
Did I make it easy for the journalist to do his job?
If I was a journalist, would I read my release?

Style guides

It’s important to establish a style guide before you start writing releases. The guide should indicate whether you use capitals for job titles, when to use Mr, Mrs, Ms etc, how you will use numbers, e.g. ten or 10 and much more. Develop a style guide and stick to it

A useful book if you are rusty on punctuation and grammar is ‘Eats, shoots and leaves: the zero tolerance approach to punctuation’, by Lynn Truss.

Photography

A good photo can make or break whether a release is published or not.  Look at the types of images that feature in the papers you are interested in being published in and then brief your photographer to take photos that resonate with the newspaper’s style.  A good photographer should know what works and what doesn’t so use their expertise in this area.

Now get cracking and start publicising your good work!

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