Guidance provided by and copyright of Capital B Media
How to Write a Press Release
THE CATCHY HEADLINE: “South Yorkshire form bucks the recession”
The rule is that the headline and first sentence MUST catch the attention of the newsdesk or the press release will end up in the bin. Put WHERE in the headline and/or first sentence if you are sending it to regional/local media. Put WHAT if you are sending to specialist press.
The best press releases are written like newspaper stories, with the most interesting stuff at the beginning and the less interesting later. If it is really well written it will be cut and pasted word for word. It must be written in the third person, as though you are reporting on your company. If you write it in the first or second person (I, we, us, you etc) it will sound like an advert and be treated as such.
The first paragraph is a bit like a summary of the story. Imagine if you are sending a text or a very short email and have to sum up your campaign / award / new product in ONE SENTENCE.
Now they are reading – you need to flesh out the story. You need to answer all the questions: WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, WHY AND HOW? (the five Ws and one H).
The first paragraph may give us a vague answer to two or three of those. “A Sheffield firm is bucking the recession with orders up 30% (what) on last year.” It is vital to get where in the first sentence and/or headline when sending to local media, or the news editor won’t realise that the story is relevant to their readers/viewers/listeners. For specialist / trade media (eg “Widgets Weekly” or “Golfing Gazette”) get the subject matter in (widgets or golf).
But you need to go on to say exactly where, when and what and answer all the who / when / how etc questions in the press release. Reporters and lazy and busy and if they have to ring you up to ask WHERE or WHEN – they may not bother.
You need to include quotes in quotation marks (i.e. direct quotes). This is a good place to get a plug in for your business. Remember to attribute quotes. For example: John Smith, company director said: “Our success shows that even in these very testing times quality counts. We pride ourselves on producing the best widgets in the country and our customers know that”.
Include interesting facts and figures to set it in context – but not in the first couple of paragraphs. For example: “When Scroggins Engineering was setup in 1952 it was the only widget maker in the UK. Since then the company has manufactured more than 20 million.
Avoid jargon and abbreviations – except for commonly known ones. Length: A press release should not usually be more than TWO sides of A4.
NOTES FOR NEWSDESK
This bit is not really for publication. It is just background for the newsdesk. You could put details of the press launch (if there is one), possibly some information about your organisation and definitely a contact name and number – and make sure that person is available! Remember radio and TV may need someone to say the quotes.