Unlike paid advertising, an advertorial or a byline column, a press release is a fact-based notice sent to the media to promote an upcoming newsworthy event, laud the accomplishments of local groups and individuals or announce the opening of a business. Press releases are written in a succinct, objective, no-frills style that emphasizes who, what, when, where and why. An effective press release may even spark a reporter's interest in pursuing and developing a feature story.
Create a catchy headline that grabs your readers' attention and tells them, in a nutshell, what the story is about. Examples include:
"Local Woman Hooks 500 Fish"
"Garden Club to Auction Bachelors for Fundraiser"
"Elton John to Perform at Baylor Bridge Centennial"
Identify the release date of the announcement and its city of origin directly below the headline. Although the release date is typically not published with the story, it is included as a courtesy to the press so that they can keep track of time-sensitive submissions.
Place your most critical information in the first paragraph. If, for example, the rest of the press release were to be cut because of space restrictions, there should be sufficient instruction in that first paragraph for readers to understand what you want them to do. For example:
"On Saturday, March 17 at 2 p.m., the Hillside Library on Pierpont Street will host a free lecture by author Mary McCormick on how to write and sell e-books. Reservations are recommended by calling 203-670-1492."
Provide additional explanation about the event in the second paragraph. For example:
"McCormick, a former literary agent with Backlash Books, has written 47 novels and taught workshops throughout the U.S. on how aspiring authors can break into today's competitive market. Light refreshments will be served following a Q&A session, and free parking is available on the southeast side of the building."
You may also want to include boilerplate language in this section that offers additional background about the individuals, the host organization or the venue itself. For example:
"This is the third in a series of nine community lectures made possible by a grant from the Irving R. Feldman Foundation. Feldman, one of the city's founding fathers, was the architect of Hillside Library."
Insert "###" or "-30-" between the end of the press release and the media contact information that follows. This tells the publication that there are no additional paragraphs or pages. Below these symbols, provide your name, phone number and email address so that the press will know how to reach you if any additional information or clarification is needed.
Tips & Warnings
- Always double-space the content of your press release and use an easy-to-read font such as Times New Roman, Bookman or Courier.
- Learn the deadlines of your target media in order to submit press releases in a timely manner.
- The shorter a press release, the greater likelihood it will get published.
- Omit fluffy, flowery, superfluous adjectives. Just stick to the facts.
- "Writing Effective News Releases: How to Get Free Publicity for Yourself, Your Business, or Your Organization"; Catherine V. McIntyre; 2008
- "The Everything Guide to Writing Copy: From Ads and Press Release to On-Air and Online Promos -- All You Need to Create Copy That Sells"; Steve Slaunwhite; 2007
- "I Need a Killer Press Release -- Now What?: A Guide to Online PR"; Janet Meiners Thaeler, Jason Alba; 2009
- Photo Credit Jupiterimages/BananaStock/Getty Images
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