Tips to Create Effective Press Releases Through Better Writing

Carmichael Library newspaper collectionCatching a journalist’s attention is tough enough, but don’t catch them with a great hook if there is nothing for them to work with afterward. Once a reader is willing to give your topic a chance, the press release needs to captivate their interest the whole way through. When I worked as a reporter and saw press releases pass through the newsroom daily, I saw many that were poorly written or had left out critical information.

Take plenty of time to get it right, as that extra care to write better press releases will provide the best opportunity for your news to spread. At the very least, there are certain facts that need to make it into your press release, no matter where you are sending it. They are the basic tenets of journalism and I always make sure all of these are answered in every press release I write for a client:

  • Who: The name of your company and any other businesses or individuals involved
  • What: The meat of your news item — what has happened that is newsworthy
  • When: The date the event occurred or will occur, include the time if needed
  • Where: Be specific and use full mailing addresses
  • Why: Explains the causes of the news item
  • How: How it happened

Most of these questions should be answered in some way within the first sentence or two. It should essentially read like a news headline: telling the most information in the smallest number of words. Fill in the details in the following paragraphs.

For example, for news that has already occurred:

“Eureka writer Allison Edrington donated $10 on Wednesday to the Wikimedia Foundation to support some of the largest collaboratively edited reference projects in the world.”

And for news announcing something in the future:

“Eureka writer Allison Edrington will host a business luncheon on Jan. 4 at XYZ at 3 p.m. to discuss future projects.”

Give a journalist those basic details and they are much more  likely to read through the whole thing. Just keep these few tips in mind for the rest:

  • Double check every detail!
  • Stay in the active voice
  • Include a quote from someone in your company
  • Add a boilerplate, which is a paragraph summary about your company at the bottom of the release
  • Put in plenty of detail — some or none of it may make publication, but the more you provide, the better
  • Don’t just rely on spell check — check out my post about editing your own writing or hire a pro to do it
  • After the content of the press release, place “###” and center a few lines below the end of the text
  • Remember to put your contact information (sadly, not an uncommon mistake)

Image credit: Carmichael Library.

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One comment

  1. Hi Allison,

    Thank you for your poignant information. Clearly we can all use some help in our business writing, and the information you have provided certainly will help me organize and improve my business writing.

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