Learn how to write a killer press release

How to structure your press release to grab journalists' attention

If you are launching a company or a product a press release is not a bad way to go about it, because a new company is generally hard news and the press likes new things.

Press releases should have the look and feel of a news item you would read in a publication. At first glance, most press releases look simple and harmless enough but even the biggest companies agonise over them.

Make sure the wording is correct, the message is clear and direct and the correct information is provided so that a journalist will be able to use it even if they do not contact a member of your company or public relations team.

Your release should convey a sense of importance but not seem over-hyped. You want to provide information about your firm in a newsy format, not a marketing letter. “It needs to be factual, not opinion,” suggests the Institute of Public Relations. Besides, if your announcement is worth sending a release out about, it can probably stand on its own without marketing hype.

Writing the press release

All press releases should answer the journalist’s five basic questions of:

  • Who
  • What
  • Where
  • Why
  • How

This will require you to put yourself in the shoes of a journalist and chances are answering those questions will give you a clearer idea of what you want to write.

A punchy headline should be included that matches the release’s first sentence, or lead, as those in the trade call them. The headline should be factual. It shouldn’t try to make a joke or be smart.

A dateline should precede the start of the text. The date line is usually in bold or capitalised and tells the journalist where it is being released and what date it is being released, for example: London, September 3, 2011–.

The first sentence should be direct, relate what is going on, convey a level of importance of the news and start off with the name of your firm.

As a matter of preference the sentences in the release should be kept as short as possible.

Journalists write in a style called the ‘inverted pyramid’ and your releases should do the same. The inverted pyramid style of writing requires that more information be provided higher in the story, rather than deeper in the text.

The idea is, that you should be able to cut from the bottom of the story and no matter where you cut from you can still get a sense for what is going on – even if the only thing that is used is the first sentence!

A quote, or recorded statement from an officer of the company, should be included within the text. It’s always useful to have a quote for a human content and some authority. It can personalise it and give the journalist an idea of who to speak with. Most journalists will seek their own quotes by following up releases with interviews, but having a quote gives journalists the option to use it.

Then the release should close with an editor’s note paragraph that describes your company, where it has offices, and its products and services. This is where you can put in some marketing. It’s here that you underscore how much business you do, how many offices you have, whether you are listed on a stock exchange or the uniqueness of your firm.

Contact details for journalists who want to find out more about what is happening can either go at the top of the release or the bottom. And all releases should be as specific and targeted as possible as to who they are contacting at a newspaper.

The days of using blanket press releases, announcements not posted to anyone or publication in particular are over. Journalists get inundated with hundreds of releases and in truth, most end up in the bin because they aren’t directed to a person.

A punchy headline should be included that matches the release’s first sentence.


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