How do I write a press release?
1) What is a press release?
A press release is a concise statement, designed to appeal to journalists in it’s format and style. It’s a simple way to communicate with the press, and one of the best methods for achieving media interest.
2) Why should I use a press release?
Journalists are busy people; a well-written, professional press release is the quickest way to present your story to them. It will be competing with lots of others, so your release needs to grab the attention of the editor or journalist that you’ve targeted. This is more likely to be achieved with a decent story, rather than embellishing a dull story with flowery language, so take a moment to consider whether your’s is actually newsworthy.
3) What makes a good press release?
Your press release should be focused on an event that your group has organised or something that you have done. Whilst the subject of your release might be a great source of pride for yourself or your organisation, bear in mind that it might not be interesting to the audience. How can you make it relevant or of interest to the readers? See A Journalist’s point of view
4) What should I include?
Start with the basics and clearly mark the top of the document with PRESS RELEASE. Use business/campaign headed paper if you have it.
Put the date that you wish the release to be published. Write ‘For immediate release’ if you want your story reported straight away. You can ask for the information to be held back until a particular date. This is called an embargo. For example, you might want to capture the interest of the press but not reduce the impact of an announcement until it has been made; you can embargo your press release, or part of it, until the event has happened.
- Your contact details are essential. Also include a copy of your media fact sheet with every release.
- Get the facts straight. You must be clear and the information you give must be true and correct. An incorrect location, date or time of an event renders your release pointless.
- A quotation or two from people involved in the subject matter can really liven up your release, but make sure they are concise and relevant.
- Use photography. It can encourage photographers and television crews to come to your event, especially if there are obvious visual draws. See Using photography to best effect.
- Read your release thoroughly, check your spelling and get someone else to do the same.
5) What is the correct style?
Think like a journalist, you’re trying to catch their attention.
- Start with a headline. Journalists think in sound-bites, so use the most exciting, attention-grabbing part of the event to sell the story and make them want to read on.
- Your opening paragraph must explain the headline. It should highlight the main news point clearly and vividly. The first 20-30 words are crucial, these could make or break. Each paragraph thereafter should be in order of importance, finishing with the least important information. If it’s useful, reiterate your key points at the end.
- Stick to a single page wherever possible.
- If you have room use double line spacing. Editors like to scribble between the lines.
- Only tell one story per press release, if there is more than one, write another release.
- So that the journalist/editor knows that they have the complete release, mark the end with END.
6) Sending your press release
It is imperative that your press release goes to the right person. When you email, fax or post your release it must be clearly addressed to that individual. Make the effort to find out the name of the news editor and send it to them.
Timing can mean the difference between success and failure. Early mornings are a good time to contact daily newspapers; try to avoid Friday afternoons or the day before public holidays.
Nurture your contacts. Building up a relationship with the media can mean a better reception for your press releases. Don’t wait until the event, contact a journalist in advance and offer to meet them to talk about your story.
Follow up with a call. You’ve probably spent a lot of time crafting your perfect press release only for it to be buried on a busy news desk. A call to check that your release has been received will bring it to the attention of the journalist, who might otherwise miss it completely. If your story doesn’t appear within the next few days, call up and ask why then you’ll know where to improve your efforts next time.