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press release writing info, tools and tips for new zealand

How to write a Press Release

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After looking through the current discussions online about how to write a press release it’s reasonably clear that most people agree on some of the basic points, they’re just expressed in slightly different ways. Generally the advice online comes from people with experience writing the releases themselves or from journalists who receive the releases. It’s also reasonably clear that some of the content available is written from an academic point of view.

Whatever your background, as a business (particularly an online business) you will at some point have the need to get a press release (also called a news release or media release) out to the market and you will be hoping to have that press release picked up by the media.

Each of the articles I’ve read offer advice on effective press release writing which tend to center around the dual needs of having both newsworthy content for readers as well as newsworthy content in the eyes of the editor, journalist or reporter that you’re sending the press release to.

As a way of sourcing the writing methods that are considered the most important for completing a successful release and gaining promotion of your release in the media, I decided to canvas the “how to write a press release” articles that were available online and complete a summary of the most important items.

There has been intentional duplication across these points as they’ve been written down while looking through the advice that has been given out online (the sources are given below for due credit) as a way to re-inforce the importance of each writing item while you read through them:

  • Newsworthy information only
  • Describe to readers that release is intended for them and it is worthwhile reading
  • Brief description, then who announced it
  • Figure out how people will connect with this
  • First sentence is the most important part
  • Avoid long words / complicated language
  • Use facts only
  • Provide as much contact information as possible
  • Make it easy for media reps to use the Press Release
  • Be Newsworthy
  • Use headlines to convince editor it’s worth publishing
  • Include Why, Who, What, When, Where
  • Use Bullet Points
  • Be Concise
  • Include quotes from industry sources
  • Include contact details
  • Chose the right time to release
  • Make it useful, accurate and interesting
  • Use company letterhead or logo at least
  • Include: “PRESS RELEASE”
  • Headline or Title in BOLD/CAPS
  • Opening sentence says what the release is about
  • Second paragraph elaborates
  • Third and subsequent paragraphs should deliver facts
  • Writing style is important to impress journalists
  • Must have a beginning, middle and end
  • Aiming the release is important, single release, selective or broadside?
  • Timing the release is important, wait until it is hot
  • The angle of a release often determines if it’s used or not
  • Package yourself as newsworthy
  • Reporters looking for stories that will interest their users
  • Emulate the headlines of newspapers that you currently see
  • Lead paragraph includes the who, what, when, where and how
  • Rest of the release backs up the lead paragraph
  • Include a line offering more information or an interview with contact details
  • Stay clear of bloated phrases like “breakthrough”, “unique” etc
  • Never use “I” or “we”, write as a journalist
  • Shorter is better
  • Headline should be brief, clear and to the point and a “grabber”
  • Do not capitalise every word in the Headline
  • Lead sentence should grab the reader
  • Include information about the company
  • Signal the end of the press release with three # symbols, centered directly underneath the last line
  • Use “IMMEDIATE RELEASE” directly above the headline if relevant
  • Include a call to action in the press release
  • Send by email and put in the body of the email, not as an attachment
  • Use PDF only if the press release includes graphics for a media kit
  • Use your “grabber” headline as the subject line of your email

One of the interesting things that comes from this list is the repetition of the importance of the Headline or Title as the single most influential piece of your press release. There are others that come to the front e.g the importance of the lead paragraph and the use of Why, Who, What, When, Where however they pale compared to the stress that is put on the headline.

Overall, each of the factors above will contribute to writing an effective press release and no amount of advice is better than cultivating your own experience in the market you’re writing for by giving it a go for your own business.


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May 13th, 2011 at 4:36 am

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