Top 10 tips for writing a press release

The shift towards digital news consumption has done nothing to diminish the importance of the press release as an essential public relations tool. If anything, today’s ever-expanding range of digital outlets and devices gives the press release greater reach than ever.

Many well-written, newsworthy releases are now published more or less in their original form online. So, it’s worth thinking about news distribution channels when crafting your latest release as well as the media you are targeting.

Having digested thousands of press releases while creating news and for media analysis, the tips here are the ones all the best releases seem to follow.

We’ll be doing other posts about writing, distributing and planning press releases, so follow us for the latest updates.

Top 10 tips:

1. Headlines
Keep them short and clear. Try to grab the attention, which is what media aim to do with their headlines.

2. Newsworthy
It may sound obvious, but many releases bury the very facts that make them more likely to be used by media. Surface the hook that journalists will hang their stories on at the start of the release, in addition to the headline.

3. Write like a journalist
Avoid long words and long sentences. As a rule of thumb use language an 11-year-old reader would understand and keep sentences under 25 words.

4. The facts
As the TV cops say, stick to the facts. Leave out words such as ‘unique’ and breakthrough’. And avoid cliches, like the plague.

5. Contacts
Always include full contact details of the person who will be dealing with media inquiries and any expert opinion you have lined up. This goes at the end of the release after the news content.

6. Format
Making life easier for media greatly increases a release’s chance of being used and reduces errors. Paste the release into the body of your email rather than send as a pdf. Put your headline in the subject line of the email, too. Save pdfs for copies of reports and other official documents or graphics.

7. Embargoes

  • If the release is to be embargoed, write the time and date of the release clearly before the release headline. E.g. EMBARGOED for release at 1pm, Monday May 28, 2012.
  • Avoid more ambiguous descriptions such as ‘midnight’ and leaving out a time altogether.
  • If there is no embargo, write for IMMEDIATE RELEASE instead. To keep embargo breaches to a minimum, leave as short a lead in time as you can.

8. Short and sweet
To grab the attention of increasingly time-poor journalists, releases should be short, clear and to the point. Start with a snappy headline (see 1.). Copy should summarise then expand on a central theme (your story ‘hook’), then wrap up neatly with extra information and an invitation to contact the sender. Ta-da!

As a rule of thumb, stay under 450 words, preferably closer to 250.

9. More information
Include background information on your organisation, particularly if it is relevant to the release, upcoming events for media diaries. Put this under ‘Further information:’

10. The END
After the news portion of the release, on the next line write ENDS… in capitals. After that comes all other contact, background and diary information (see 9.).