In a world where audiences can be reached in the click of a button via social media and other digital platforms, it would be easy to write off the humble press release. However, press releases are still a vital part of the media landscape, helping to establish connections, build credibility, drive SEO traffic, and boost brand awareness. 

Knowing how to write a press release is a handy skill. They are clear and straightforward in format and designed to bring news to the attention of an editor or journalist. Here are some tips on the best way to set out writing a press release:  

 

Where to start 

Before you write a press release, the first question to ask is ‘Is it news?’. A story is newsworthy if it is something that is not known before. News value is relative: a minor story can make the paper or provide a few seconds of airtime on a slow news day, but will be binned when a major story breaks. A release for publication that goes out on a Monday has a better chance of being published than on any other weekday, unless something big has occurred over the weekend.   

The release should be written in the right style for the medium chosen, and then targeted to ensure that it goes only to the media who need it. A story with only local interest may not gain any traction with national publications, but regional media could pick it up.  

Meanwhile, stories about particular topics, for example motoring, gardening or food and drink, are more likely to receive interest from specialist publications covering those topics.  

These are all aspects to consider when you think about how to write a press release, as it will help to inform your decisions on the information you include in the release, for example, is there a local angle you could use? 

Writing the copy 

Write a first draft of your press release and polish it up later. Give the release a succinct and memorable heading with a present-tense verb, stating what the story is about. 

Spend time getting the heading right, as this will help to ‘sell the story’ to journalists. Sub-headings can also be used if needed. 

Put the main facts of the press release in the opening paragraph, then say who, why, where and when, and then write subsequent points in descending order of importance.  

When you write a press release, you should write in a snappy, lively way like journalists do, making it clear, concise and complete, and keep sentences and paragraphs short. Don’t waffle, use cliches or use hard-to-grasp jargon, and look for synonyms instead of repeating words.  

Write in a factual manner and avoid using flowery words, such as thrilling, beautiful or magnificent, and don’t write blatant advertising messages. 

Use a quote 

If possible, include a direct quotation in your press release from someone relevant to the story. Use double quote marks and keep it short – a single sentence of about 20 words will usually be enough.  

Don’t forget to send a photograph of the person you’re quoting too! 

Layout and presentation 

The layout and presentation of a press release are important for ease of reading. Keep the release to a single sheet of A4 if you can, but if the copy runs to a second page don’t break a paragraph at the foot of the page, take the whole paragraph to the next page or start a new one.   

Don’t underline anything or write anything in bold or italics in the release. Capital letters should only be used for proper nouns. The release should carry a heading such as ‘Press Release’, and be in house colours and style, and include the logo if there is one.  

Additional information to include 

The press release should have a date of issue at the top, written like this: Wednesday 6 December. 

Press releases should always include contact information at the end. Give names and telephone numbers, email addresses and website addresses for additional information.  

Give brief background notes on the company. Include correctly captioned photographs where appropriate, or say they are available on request.   

Sending the release 

Beyond thinking about how to write a press release, you should also be thinking about the ideal places to send the release. 

Research the best writers and publications to direct the press release to, and build up a distribution list. Email is the quickest way to send a press release but be sure to include the release in the body of the text and not as an attachment.  

Timing is crucial when sending a press release. Deadlines for daily newspapers are around 3pm, whereas weekly publications often have a deadline of Wednesday afternoon. Monday is always a quiet day for news so it’s a good time to get a press release covered. 

When you write a press release you need to have (or create) news to tell, use the active not the passive voice, include quotes and be aware of timings. You should also avoid clichés, hype and jargon, pay attention to detail, and keep it short. 

For information on how our team can help your brand campaigns, including writing press releases, get in touch

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Ellie Howorth