Tips on writing a press release

  • Do your homework.  If writing a press release for an event linked to a national campaign or programme (such as Time To Change), find out from their public relations department if there is a standard format or wording that must be used. Make sure the correct logos in terms of size, colour and position are used.
  • Is your news ‘newsworthy’?  Will the press be interested and do you have something of importance to their readers/listeners/viewers? Try to make your press release timely. Tie it to current events or social issues if possible. Make sure that your story has a good news hook.
  • Get the timing right.  Allow plenty of time before your event to inform the media. Bear in mind some journalists on smaller publications may work part time so don’t leave it too late. Most press releases are marked ‘for immediate release’ so can be used straightaway but that’s no good if the journalist you’re sending it to is on holiday.
  • Speak to the journalist before sending the press release. Making contact prior to sending the press release is important to make sure you have the right person and contact details.
  • Start strong. You only have seconds to grab the readers’ attention. Your headline and first paragraph should tell the story. The rest of your press release should provide the detail.
  • Include your contact details. Make sure your contact details are shown in a prominent style in the header.
  • Remember to date your press release. Put a date on, ideally the same date as the day on which you send it.
  • Choose a relevant headline. Don’t worry about having the snappiest of headlines. Newspapers and magazines have dedicated staff who summarise the story in a catchy title. You just need to make sure your title is vaguely interesting, makes sense and is noticeable.
  • Consider the “W” questions. Who, what, where, when and why?
  • Write for the media. On occasion, media outlets, especially online media, will pick up your press release and run it in their publications with little or no modification. More commonly, journalists will use your press release as a springboard for a larger feature story. In either case, try to develop a story as you would like to have it told.
  • Use examples to illustrate. Real-life stories that illustrate your point can be very powerful – but keep it short and concise.
  • Stick to the facts. Tell the truth. Avoid fluff, embellishments and exaggerations. If using a quote, state the source.
  • Beware of jargon. The best way to communicate your news is to speak plainly, using everyday language. Jargon is language specific to certain professions or groups and is not appropriate for general readership. Avoid such terms as “sectioning” “care programme approach” and “forensic services.”
  • Avoid the hype. The exclamation mark (!) is your enemy. There is no better way to destroy your credibility than to include a bunch of hype. If you must use an exclamation point, use one. Never do this!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • Add visuals where possible. Pictures can decide if a story gets used or not, especially if you have a good visual angle.
  • Include further details as ‘Editor’s Notes’ at the end of your press release. Editor’s notes are for anything else you want the editor to know, such as links to relevant websites.

Leave a Reply