You’ve got a story for your local paper and not sure what to do. A good place to start is by writing a press release.
What is a press release?
A press release is a short compelling story sent to the media. This could be the launch of a new business or event or an announcement of a merger. It’s used to pique the interest of a journalist enough for them to want to follow-up and find out more.
A release should always include the five w’s – who, what, when, where, why. It should also be written in third person and include quotes.
Is your story newsworthy?
Before you get started on writing a release, first decide whether it’s interesting enough. This may sound harsh, but does it pass the ‘so what’ factor:
- Is it new or a ‘first of its kind’?
- Would anyone (other than you and your family) find it interesting?
- Is there anything unusual or extraordinary about it?
- Would it pass the ‘pub test’? In other words, you’re at the pub with your friends, would one of your friends say, ‘did you hear about xyz’?
If you said ‘no’ to all the above, it’s probably best to give it a miss and wait until you have something more newsworthy to share.
If it’s a yes, then carry on reading…
What should be included in a press release?
A press release is made up of 7 sections:
- Compelling headline – probably one of the most important parts to attract the journalist’s interest. Keep it short – up to 110 characters.
- Date – always include the date you’re sending out the release.
- Kick-ass introductory sentence – probably equally as important as your headline. This should summarise your whole story in one line including who, what, when, where and why. If you don’t nail this, it’s possible that the journalist will not read any further.
- Supporting paragraphs – the next few sentences should expand and describe further what your story is and answer the question ‘so what?’. Include any facts and figures or links to supporting research or documents, if that applies.
- Quotes – these need to provide further insight, fresh perspective and opinion, not just extra information or facts. Be human! It should sound like something you would say, without using corporate jargon!
- Strong supporting media – include images and/or videos. The media love strong visuals as it helps drives traffic. But do not send huge files that clog up their inbox!
- ‘About’ section – this is often referred to as a ‘boiler plate’. It’s a couple of sentences about your company with a link to your website or social media. Make it concise, human and interesting – not boring and corporate! Also include your contact details so they can follow-up for more info.
Top tips for writing your release
When journalists are first training, they’re taught the ‘inverted pyramid’ when writing. Start with the most important, newsworthy information first.
Bear this in mind when writing your release. Include the entire story in the first sentence so the reader knows exactly what the story is about right away.
This style of writing in newspapers was developed because editors, adjusting for space, would cut the article from the bottom. If it needs editing because of lack of space, then the essential information is still included.
Journalists spend on average three seconds deciding whether the story is of interest to them and their readers.
Also, adjust your language. Press releases aren’t the place to start using flowery embellishments. Keep it concise and get to the point.
How long should your release be?
Keep it to one-page. Journalists get 100s of releases every day so short and sweet is appreciated.
When should you send the release?
There is no hard and fast rule. This depends on the story and the journalist that you’re contacting.
If it’s the launch of a restaurant or other event, send it out 5-7 days before. For glossy magazines, they work 3-6 months in advance.
It’s best to double check with the journalist what their deadlines are.
How should you send out the release?
99.9% of journalists prefer email.
Please, please, please do not blanket send out your press release to a ton of journalists! That’s called spam and they will know.
Do your research and carefully choose where and who you’ll send it. Each email should be personalised to the journalist and publication they write for. It all helps for a positive response.
If you have any questions, drop me a line.