Top Secrets to Writing a Great Press (or Media) Release

A press release (otherwise known as media or news release in this digital age) is still worth the paper it’s printed on (or the site it’s published on!)…here are the secrets to writing a great media release.

By guest blogger Kylie Ross, who happens to be my sister in addition to being an independent communications specialist.

With the advent of social media, has the traditional media release been discarded along with the fax machine? In my opinion, I still believe there is true worth in a well-written, well thought-through media release, for both traditional and new media.

Writing a media release provides a good opportunity to clearly outline your thoughts in written form, outlining the benefits, offerings and positioning for your product or service you are trying to promote. This can often be used in other marketing materials, credentials, website, blogs, etc.

I’ve often been told that it must be hard to write a media release but if you’ve got a good grasp of the English language along with grammar skills, it’s not as hard as you may think (not that PR people want you to know that!).

Here’s how…. but remember that although it may seem fairly simple to write a good press release, it’s another matter altogether to get your story published! That’s where the PR professionals can help…getting your story to the right people in the right place.

Writing style

1. The inverted pyramid style

  • Write the most important thing first
  • Substantiate with information
  • Support with background
  • The story can (and may) be cut from the bottom

2.  5W1H

  • What, when, where, who, why, how
  • Give the most pertinent information for the release

3. Short paragraphs

  • One to two sentences per paragraph
  • One key point in one paragraph

4. Write for the reader

  • Use simple English
  • Avoid jargon

5. Accuracy

  • If in doubt, find it out
  • If still in doubt, leave it out

6. Keep it short

  • Limit the release to a max of 2 pages (some journalists would say 1 page is plenty!)

Structure

1. The lead

  • Put the most important information in the first paragraph
  • If you can only tell the story in one sentence, say it in the lead
  • Angle the release to grab attention. News editors need an angle.

2. The body

  • Give supporting information, facts and figures
  • Put information in descending order of importance
  • The bottom can be cut without compromising the impact of the story

3. Attribution

  • Attribute the story to an authoritative source, ie the spokesperson

4. Quotes

  • Dot the body with quotations from the spokesperson
  • Quotes should be sharp and to the point
  • Quotes carry extra weight
  • Used to emphasise, or establish authority of the information/source

5. The headline

  • Capture the single most important point of the release
  • Attention grabbing, eye catching
  • Use short, simple words
  • Need not be complete sentence
  • Written last, after the story is finished

Small things matter

  1. Give contact names and number
  2. Spell check
  3. Put “page 1 of 2” on page one for a 2-page release
  4. Put “End” at the end or ##  (the notation “###” indicates “end”, ie that there is no further copy to come

End

PS. The tips above may work for you in a traditional media arena, but writing for social media can be a slightly different story! Find out why in my next guest blog

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