Press releases (also called news releases) are used
to announce your company's news to journalists in hopes that they will
publicize your story. . Many news and feature stories published in
newspapers or broadcast on radio and TV originate from press releases.
Press releases are sent to news reporters and journalists by mail,
email or fax.
Because journalists receive dozens to hundreds of
press releases daily, your release will compete with many others for
It's worth spending time to make yours the
best it can be.
Typical press release topics include:
- Announcing staff appointments. (For example, your
company adds a vice president of finance.)
- Introducing a new product, service or idea.
- Reporting new findings from a survey or research.
- Announcing an upcoming event.
- Presenting new information (if it's newsworthy)
such as reaching a milestone for your business or industry.
Many books on marketing communications and public
relations contain sections or entire chapters on preparing press
releases. You might want to add such a book to your professional
library or check one out from your local public library. Also, the Web
site of the Public Relations Society of America, a professional
association for public relations practitioners, contains information
about press relations in a database of newsletter articles. Check out
the site at www.prsa.org.
The Inverted Pyramid
Newspaper journalists have long used the inverted
pyramid model for story writing, so press release writers should
structure their releases accordingly. In general, this model
reminds the writer to:
- Summarize important information in the beginning
of the release. The reader should be able to grasp the point of the
release by reading the first sentence. This is the lead statement.
- Follow with details that back-up or confirm the
lead statement of the release.
- Including less important–yet relevant and
The inverted pyramid model is used for several
- Including " who, what, when, where and why "
upfront quickly informs the reader of the story content. With press
releases, the reader is a busy journalist who doesn't have time to read
everything he or she receives.
- If the reader stops reading before completing the
article, the most important information is conveyed.
- When space is limited, newspaper editors cut
stories from the bottom. Therefore, the least important information
will be cut first.
General Guidelines for Writing and
Formatting Press Releases
- Use the " KISS Method" (Keep It
- Write in the active voice.
- Active voice: The company offers several
- Passive voice: Several products are offered by
- Use short, upbeat sentences written in everyday
language. Short paragraphs are best.
- Write factually and objectively. Avoid adjectives.
- Tell how the information can help the reader,
listener or viewer. Even though you're sending a press release to
journalists, it's their audience you should keep in mind.
- Insert quotes from your company's CEO and other
- Check for the proper spelling of individual and
company names. Understand that you won't have the opportunity to
double-check facts if a reporter decides to use your story.
They'll be in a rush and will assume that what you've submitted is
- Don't use initials or acronyms without indicating
what they stand for in the first reference.
- Use capitalization accurately, yet sparingly.
- Avoid jargon.
- Tell the reader where they can go, what they can
do, or who they can call for information.
- Edit your material tightly; look for ways to
shorten phrases and sentences.
- Try to limit your news to one page and make it no
longer than two pages.
- A fact sheet and/or photo may be attached, if
needed (see below).
- If your release spills over to a second sheet, try
to end the first page with a completed paragraph, or at least a
completed sentence. Type "-more-" or "(more)" (without the
parentheses) in the bottom center at the bottom of the first page so
the reader knows to read on. At the top of the second page include a
brief heading (flush left or right, but not centered) that includes the
name of your organization, the date, page number and topic of the
release (in case it is separated from the first page).
- Mark the end of your release with "###", "30" or
"end" (centered) to signal that no additional text follows.
- Since publication schedules vary, contact each
media outlet to determine the best timing for sending your releases.
- In general, weekly or monthly magazines should
receive your news several weeks in advance. Send releases to
daily newspapers at least one week in advance, if possible.
- Print the release on your company's letterhead (or
with a top heading that includes your business name, address, phone and
fax numbers, etc.)
- Type NEWS RELEASE at the top of the page so the
journalist knows immediately what it is.
- Indicate whether the announcement is for immediate
release or for release on a later date. For example, you can type: "For
Immediate Release," "For Release on November 1, 1997," or "For Release
On or After November 1, 1997."
- Include a contact name (most likely yours) and
phone number. The contact should be available to answer questions or
provide further information if contacted by the reporter. Call the
reporter back promptly with a response to his or her inquiry.
- Provide a short headline that describes the
content at a glance. Try to include your company name in the headline
to build instant name recognition. For example, "Brighton Electronics
Introduces Accounting Software for Home-Based Businesses" is a headline
that immediately tells a journalist what the release is about.
- Type a "dateline" at the beginning of the lead
paragraph. A dateline includes the location from which the news is
being generated (city in all caps) and the date. For example, the first
text line in your release might look this:
DAYTON, Ohio (June 1, 1997) -- Brighton
Electronics introduced accounting ...
Try to determine and use the date you expect the
release to arrive on the journalist's desk. The news may be hot off the
press, but if it carries last week's date, a journalist may assume it's
yesterday's news and throw it away without reading it.
- Type on only one side of an 8 1/2" x 11" piece of
paper -- never print text on the back side of the paper.
- Double-space the text so it can be easily read.
- Indent all paragraphs
- Leave at least 1" for left and right margins. This
gives the reporter space for editing, and makes your text easier to
- Include a brief fact sheet on products, events or
other topics that have multiple details that would clutter a press
release. For example, you might issue a press release announcing a new
product and include a fact sheet that describes the product's features
and benefits in detail.
- Try to limit to one page.
- Include only facts, no quotes.
- Fact sheets may be written in an outline format or
use bulleted lists to present information.
- Include diagrams or graphics as appropriate to
communicate facts about your product or event.
Photos and Photo Captions
- Photos are optional but may be included with staff
appointments, new product releases or event announcements.
- Hire a professional photographer, if possible.
- Photos of people are more interesting when the
people are in action, however simple head shots may be used for
promotion or appointment announcements.
- For newspapers the usual format is a 5" x 7" or 8"
x 10" black and white photo. It's a good idea to ask the publications
about preferred photo size.
- For magazines or newspapers that use color, you
should also supply a reproduction-quality slide or indicate that color
art is available upon request. (If a reporter calls and requests color
art, ask when he or she needs it and get it there, even if you have to
deliver it yourself.)
- Photo captions should be written in present tense
and in the active voice.
- Photo captions should contain information on the
"Five Ws"–Who, What, Where, When
- People in photos should be identified (from left
to right) and the action in the photo described. For example, a caption
might read: " Pictured from left to right are Brighton Electronics
employees breaking ground March 3 at their new building site in east
Hanover: Mary Jones, president; Celia Gonzales, vice president of
operations; and Gloria Washington, vice president of sales."
- Captions, typed on paper, can be attached to
photos with a paperclip or tape, as long as the photo is not damaged.
The best method is to tape the caption to the bottom of the photo.
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