Top tips for writing a great press release
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A well written press release goes a long way when it comes to ensuring your story, product or service is picked up by the media.
There are some clear rules when it comes to writing a press release, from having a decent news angle to structuring it correctly.
Here is a guide to writing a press release that should get you results.
Is your story newsworthy?
Before you write and issue a press release, ask "Is there news value in this story?" Too often businesses write press releases about topics that are not newsworthy. If the journalist doesn't consider it newsworthy and engaging, it won't get coverage.
There are key elements that a journalist looks for in a press release and the human interest angle is key. Can you show that your news has an impact on people?
Once you have decided that you have a story to tell, you need to understand the rules for writing a press release. These are designed to make it as easy as possible for journalists to use your material.
Tell the story in the first lines
The opening few lines of a press release needs to explain the ‘who’, ‘what’ ‘where’, ‘why’ , ‘when’ and ‘how. If you answer these questions you will have all the detail you need:
Who? Who are the key players - your company, anyone else involved with the product? Who does your news affect/who does it benefit?
What? What is new?
Why? Why is this important news - what does it tell people that they need to know?
Where? Where is this happening?
When? What is the timing of this? Does this add significance?
How? How did this come about?
Keep your paragraphs short and punchy – no longer than two lines or a maximum of 30 words.
If you can read your first line in more than one breath, then it’s too long!
Here’s an example opening line – A group of seven architects have raised £14,000 for charity after running six marathons in six days.
Structure it like an upside-down pyramid
A good press release should take a factual tone and be short and concise, offering the journalist the essence of the story.
It is not uncommon for press releases to be written up without any further follow-up with the sender – that’s why it’s important your release contains all the key details. The journalist will follow up if they want more information.
One point to bear in mind is that editors edit from the bottom of a press release up - so ensure the most important points are at the top – like an upside-down pyramid!
And you know it’s been written well if your press release appears in print without many changes!
Quotes high up
Your most important quote from a spokesperson or senior official needs to be high up in the body of the release, usually the third or fourth paragraph.
The maximum number of quotes in a press release should be 3, any more than that will be too many and have little chance of being used.
Timing - for immediate release or embargo?
Indicate at the top of the release whether it is for immediate release or under embargo, and if so, give the relevant date.
An embargo does not mean that journalists can't contact you about your story, it means that you are asking them not to publish it before a particular date.
A headline to catch the eye
The job of the press release title is to grab attention and encourage the journalist to read more. Don't labour over what title might look good in print - most journalists/editors will change the title to suit their readership.
It can be beneficial to include a figure in your headline, for example if you’re promoting the opening of a new £2m swimming pool or if you’re offering a 50% discount on something. Including figure can be a quick win if you’re stuck for a title.
How to end a press release
Signal the end of the press release with the word "Ends" in bold. After "Ends", write "For further information, please contact" and list your details or those of an appointed person.
Give a phone number and email if you can, so that journalists can contact you easily. The more accessible you are, the better.
Notes to editors
This is important if you have lots of extra information you want journalists to have but not include in the main body of the release.
This could be facts and stats, or more about a topic or company mentioned in the main release which is not necessary for inclusion.
If you include images within the press release, which is always handy for local press, you can put the captions in this section.
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