A press release is the standard and most commonly used form of written communication when dealing with the media. A release follows a structured format which allows you to convey the necessary details about your news story in a style which is easily recognised by journalists. Most journalists receive many, many press releases every day so it’s really important to make yours stand out and to make the information contained within it easily consumed; anything too fussy or over-complicated is only likely to find its way into the recycling bin! Listed below are some tips for writing your press release and a sample release can be found at the end of this article.
- All press releases must start with ‘For immediate release: day/date/month/year’.
- The headline should be short and informative. When a journalist is trawling through the numerous press releases they receive, a catchy headline will grab their attention.
- The five ‘W’s and the ‘H’ – Who? What? Where? When? Why? How? This is the crux of all news. Any good news story provides answers to each of these questions.
- The first paragraph must be short and summarise the whole story. It must contain the ‘five W’s and the H’ in a nutshell. You can provide further details later on. A journalist will glance at this one paragraph and make a decision on this as to whether they will read on making it the most important part of your release.
- The next two to three paragraphs should repeat the story, explaining in more detail.
- Try to keep press releases to one side of A4 paper. If it is longer than one page, use two separate numbered pages and write ‘More follows…’ at the bottom of page one.
- Quote people: Include a short lively quote. Do not use “I” and “me” when you are quoting someone.
- End your release with any background information you think is relevant, clearly labeled as Note to editors.
- Keep sentences and paragraphs short and simple. Don’t use flowery language and fancy words.
- Good photos accompanying a press release can make all the difference to the impact of the story
- Make sure that your release is being sent to the right person, at the right address, at the right time. Give the publication a call to find out who it would be best to send it to and their preferred format – most publications prefer to receive press releases in the body of an email, rather than as an attachment.
Just because you contact a journalist with a possible story, or supply an interview and/or images, they are in no way obliged to use it. If a journalist turns your story down or an article is dropped at the last minute, do not be disheartened or take it personally. Most newspapers need to be scrupulous about what they run as there is not always room for everything. Often they also need to amend pages at the last minute to make room for important breaking news stories.
DOWNLOAD: WRITING THE PERFECT PRESS RELEASE PDF.
Article originally published by London Alternative Fringe Society 2009.