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How to write a press release

It’s important to realis that a press release is not a form of free advertising. A press release is usually short and written in the impersonal third person. The content is factual and probably a news story that will be of interest to readers, journalists and editors. Press releases are written so that the can be featured in magazines, newspapers (both local and national), newsletters, and on the writer’s website. When written for newsletters, company magazines and websites, they can be written in the first person.


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You need to find a new angle if you want to write about a product or service that already exists. What is different or new about it? What occurred to make it newsworthy now? You need to keep your target audience in mind when writing a press release. You need to write for the editor of a publication, or a journalist or a broadcaster when you write a press release, because you want those people to take up your release and disseminate it to a wider audience. Tailor your press release to the readership, listeners, or viewers that the programme or publication usually attracts.

Ask and answer the ‘wh’ questions

It’s always important to keep the ‘wh’ questions in mind, whatever you are writing. Here’s a list of them: -

  • Who
  • What
  • Where
  • When
  • Why and
  • How

How isn’t really a ‘wh’ question, but it should be added to this list.

When you have answered these questions, at least in your head, you should think about how to structure your press release. It should follow the classic inverted pyramid structure. You need a concise, explicit headline to begin so that everyone understands what the piece is about.

You can use this structure: -

  • Headline
  • Paragraph 1: this should give a summary of the story in a maximum of two sentences. Think about how you write a meta description for a blog post or article published in the web.
  • Paragraph 2: This paragraph says why the event, product and so on is important. You explain the context in this paragraph.
  • Paragraph 3: This contains the answers to the ‘wh’ questions. You flesh out the details and write who the main players are, how it happened, where and when it happened.
  • Paragraph 4: this should contain more relevant information, and perhaps a quote from an interested party. The quote should give an opinion or add facts to make the story credible.
  • Paragraph 5: gives information regarding where more details can be found, or where a product can be purchased or perhaps how people can get involved in the event reported.

If you decide to use this structure, your release will be easy to edit. Ask an editor for advice on how to write a press release for his or her publication before you start writing. You need to know how much space is available and so how many words you should write.

The headline should be attention grabbing so that your audience is hooked and want to know the details of your story. A headline in a press release should not only describe what the story is about, but it should also be your pitch to the editor and media. Editors and others will decide whether the story is interesting or not based on the headline. If it is not thought to be of interest to the audience, it will immediately find its way into the waste paper bin, or simply delete it and you don’t want that to happen to your well-crafted piece.

Your first paragraph should provide details about ‘who’ has done something. It should also state what has been done or what is being done.

Your second and third paragraphs will expand on the story, giving more details, answering the ‘how’ and ‘why’ questions. It isn’t enough to answer the ‘who’ or ‘what’ ones.

You should stick to the word limit set by the editor. Don’t write more than a page. If you do, you have probably got two stories rather than one. Alternatively, there’s too much padding in the piece. You may have been told that you need to include quotes from ‘important’ people, for example. and these may be lengthy ones. If you have to include such quotes, put them in the ‘notes to the editor’ section. This section should come at the end of your news story.

The quotations you use should generally

  • give relevant and useful details that are not contained anywhere else in your press release.
  • give an explanation regarding why a product, partnership or service is useful.
  • make a previously unknown entity credible.
  • state someone’s opinion, and it’s all the better if this is in some way controversial or at least different to quotes from others on the subject.
  • not read as though they were written for PR purposes by someone in the PR department.

Perhaps you have two stories rather than one. You need to train yourself to recognise where one story ends, and another begins. If you are new to press release writing, you could ask someone else to make suggestions and help with the editing of your piece. Don’t try to incorporate a weaker sub-story into your main piece. This will dilute the impact of your main story.

If you have two stories, you should write two press releases.

If you follow this advice about how to write a press release, it should be reasonably easy to get it published. However, if the story isn’t interesting, that you can either change your approach to the subject or try to get it published online yourself. There are sites that will publish press releases for free, but they don’t have a wide circulation. If you pay to get it published this may not guarantee a wide readership either.

Writing a press release for social media can be tricky as there is information overload on the web. You need to think about how you could enthuse people to want to buy a product, attend an event or support a charity, for example.

You can write a print press release and also write one for social media so that it gets maximum coverage.

You need to know that Google indexes 60 characters in meta descriptions, while Yahoo will index double that amount.

You may want to think about what contact details you give. These can be added to a press release. However, bots might pick up your email address, and your inbox might be inundated with spam and junk mail.

Don’t write in the passive voice, i.e. don’t say ‘A wonderful time was had by all.’ Use the active forms of verbs, so the active form of the previous example sentence would be, ‘Everyone had a wonderful time.’

If you are writing about a company, use ‘we’ or ‘I’ rather than the impersonal third person as with a traditional press release. Social media has different norms and styles.

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