Tips on Writing A News Release

Newspaper Stack 1This is not intended to be a step-by-step instruction on writing a press release, but more of an introduction about what to expect and answer some of the questions I had before I wrote my first press release.

A news release or press release is known in the news business as a “handout.” News people are used to rewriting handouts and they don’t get upset if the news release is not a perfect composition, but they do get upset if the facts are not all there.

The smaller the news outlet the more likely they will want to use your news releases without re-writing it.

The First Paragraph

The first paragraph is a summary of what the release is about. In the trade it is called the “lead” and these important three lines (never more than four!) determine whether your release sinks or swims.

It is important that the lead answers all the important questions: What? Why? Who? When? Where?

The Rest of the News Release

Write the rest of your news release in logical order with simple sentences in short paragraphs. Did you answer all these questions (if appropriate)?

Who?
What?
When?
Where?
Why?
How?

Some Simple Rules

  1. Use the full proper name of a person, or of anything, only once to avoid clutter in the story.
  2. Spell out the numbers one through nine except for dates, time, ages or money. For all other numbers use Arabic numerals: 10, 11, 12, etc.
  3. Never write, “11 a.m. in the morning.” Write “11 o’clock in the morning” or “11 a.m.” Don’t be redundant!
  4. Formal titles are capitalized if they precede a name. (District Superintendent Ralph Smith).
  5. They should conform to wire service (Associated Press or United Press International) rules of style.

Submitting a Press release

Every news organization has a person who screens the flow of incoming releases, calls and visits, determines which have news potential, and directs how the news organization will respond.

There are assignment editors, city editors, feature editors, news editors, and more. Radio and television often use the word “director” instead of “editor.” Whatever the title, this is the gatekeeper. Learn who it is and cultivate that person.

After you’ve made the initial contact, reach these people with simple messages on news release paper. Email versions also must be simple. Keep in mind graphics and attachments may cause newsroom delays or disruptions.

Additional Notes

Use a press release only when you have something worth taking an editor’s time. An editor will ignore everything that comes from the same boring source.

News organizations are trying to interest an audience so if your release will help them do that, they will use it. If it won’t, trash it yourself.

In general, use the following titles to address your releases, unless you know a particular organization uses a different title that would serve better:

Daily newspapers: City Editor
Weekly newspaper: Editor
Shoppers: Editor
Magazines: Editor
Radio Stations: News Department
Television Stations: News Director

Timing

Consider to whom you are sending it. Most feature departments (such as travel sections) and magazines have deadlines long before things appear in print. They need to get releases in advance. Weekly papers need releases just before — not just after — their weekly deadlines. The daily media usually have reduced staffs on weekends and are better equipped to act on a release received on a weekday. Time your mailings accordingly.

Resources:

eHow
wikiHow
PRWeb Direct

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Joan Stewart says:

    I’m so glad to see you mentioned press releases.
    You might be interested in knowing that I’m offering a free email tutorial called “89 Ways to Write Powerful Press Releases.”

    I explain why we should no longer be writing press releases only for the press, but for consumers who can find the releases online, click through to our websites and enter our sales cycle, even if journalists don’t think our release is worthy of attention.

    The course includes several terrific press release samples as well as “before” and “after” makeovers.

    You can sign up for the free press release writing tutorial at http://www.PublicityHound.com/pressreleasetips/art.htm

    It’s a very long tutorial but please stick with it. By the time you’re done, it will be like earning a master’s degree in writing and distributing press releases. And you’ll know more about this topic than many PR people.

  2. Ana Yoerg says:

    Hundreds of press releases are unleashed every day – how can you keep yours from getting lost in the shuffle? CMS Wire’s Angela Natividad has just, ahem, released a few great tips for writing a successful press release.

    Rather than reading like a series of traditional PR do’s and don’ts, she points out a few key do-not-forgets, like synchronizing your website to the release and knowing your audience: "Respect their intelligence and they’ll respect yours," she writes. "Be brief. Be relevant. Drop the hyperbole."

    A brief, relevant, hyperbole-free article, useful for anyone from first-time entrepreneurs to longtime PR professionals.

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