Five Top Tips for Writing a Press Release

7 Oct

Media coverage is a great way of raising the profile of your business. As well as being cheaper than paid advertising, consumers trust editorial content a lot more1. But writing a press release that results in those all important column inches can sometimes seem like a dark art.

It helps to start off with a clear idea of what you want to say and who your target audience is. What would you like them to do as a result of reading about your business? This is called a call to action and is a great starting point when writing your press release and deciding what information to include. It also focuses the mind when deciding on your target publications. Don’t forget, today’s media landscape is hugely varied and your news may be more relevant to trade press than local or national publications. You may also consider outlets such as radio stations ,TV channels or online newswires. Decide what you want to gain as a result of any media coverage with measurable objectives. For example, you might want to generate 30 enquiries about a new product.

Press releases follow a set format. At the top, you need to write: ‘Press Release’. Include your company name, the date and a headline. Then write the story, when it is finished, let the journalist know by writing ‘Ends’. Don’t forget to add your contact details, in case the journalist wants to get in touch for more detail. You can provide further background information underneath in a section called ‘Notes to editors’. This might include general information about your organisation and its services.

Here are five tips to help you ensure your press release results in media coverage:

  1. Make sure the most important information is in the first sentence. Your first paragraph should answer the questions: Who? What? When? Where? Why? A good rule of thumb is to imagine you are telling your mum or your best friend the latest news. Ask yourself if your text would excite them? If it doesn’t, reword it until it works. Your subsequent paragraphs should answer the question How?
  2. Keep it simple and brief. Try and keep your press release to one side of A4. Keep sentences short and lively and avoid using any jargon. If you need to use acronyms, always spell them out in the first instance. Journalists don’t have time to wade through several paragraphs to get to the key points, so make sure the most important information is the first thing they see.
  3. Your press release needs to be timely. News is all about what is happening now, so send the release in good time for the publication to print the story while it is still relevant. It can be helpful to ring your target publications and ask when their copy deadline is. And while you’re on the phone, check that you will be sending the release to the right person. For information that may not be time sensitive, incorporate a ‘news hook’, for example you could tie it in with an awareness week or another story that is current.
  4. Include a quote from a key person to add some human interest, depth and gravitas. You can use the quote to explain in further detail why your news is so important and how it is relevant to your audience.
  5. Include an image to add colour to your story. Many media outlets no longer have in-house photographers, but they still need to include pictures in their publications. Ensure the image is high quality and invest in a professional photographer if you can afford it. Not only does including an image mean that you get extra space on the page, but it can sometimes be the deciding factor on whether your story gets published at all. Above all, pictures add life to your story and they draw the audience’s eye.

After your story has appeared, make the most of the exposure. Add cuttings to your website and include links in your social networks and newsletters. If it’s a particularly positive piece endorsing a product or service you offer, add quotes to your testimonials pages.

About the Author:

Joanna Bowery is a former journalist and is the founder and director of Cosmic-Frog, which provides organisations with accessible marketing and communications services.

1 Nielsen Global Trust in Advertising Report says 58% of consumers trust editorial content such as newspaper articles, while 46% trust ads in newspapers


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