By its origin, a news release, press release, media release, or press statement is a written communication aimed at members of the news media for announcing something newsworthy.
Writing the perfect release that gets picked up is possible, should you stick to few rules and recommendations.
Here, I’ve gathered easy quick tips that will help you to write a great release.
1. The news release should open with a lead paragraph that is newsworthy.
The lead paragraph should have a hook that clearly states the purpose of the news release.
If the release is about a product, the opening statement should clearly state the name, type, and purpose of the product.
If the statement is about a declaration, mention the name of the presenter and their title at the beginning of statement.
This allows the reader to know the importance and the relevance of the person making the statement.
The press release has to clearly present value to readers of newspapers, magazines, etc. receiving it, and not just for the entity submitting it.
Likewise, when you announce an event, clearly state the name or title of the event.
In doing so, the reader can easily make a clear connection with the event you are promoting.
A standard press release needs less than one minute to be read.
If he reader does not understand the content of the news release in that time, the purpose of the release is lost.
2. The structure of the news release should be organized and succinct.
You should clearly think through the organization of the information. A brief introduction takes the lead. This will let readers understand what lies ahead.
If they are interested in reading more info, they will keep reading. If not, they will leave away, thanking you for not wasting their time.
Once you get them hooked in reading, start with stating more facts and figures about your news.
A quote from some authority in field or the company adds a lot of weight to the news release.
Having said all of this, don’t forget the golden rule…
…Your overall news release should not go beyond two pages.
A news release of three pages is rarely called for unless critical information needs to go there.
You should refer to any important information in appropriate places in the news release, all while being really relevant to the subject matter (newsworthiness) of the release.
You should include information such as links to websites, addresses, and phone numbers in the letterheads of the news release or in a section in the release clearly marked for contact information.
3. The press release should convey information only.
It should not be an advertisement with a call to action to purchase a product or service.
A press release written like an advertisement have the potential of turning away certain readers who may form a bias against that product.
Any advertisement banner or call to action should be left out of the news release.
If the news release is announcing the introduction of a new product, the information in the press release should be limited to the launch.
A link to the company website provides readers with information about the product, but the news release should be clear of advertisement information.
4. The symbol “###” should be placed at the end of the news release.
The symbol “###” shows that there are no more pages and the content of the news release has come to an end. This gives a clear signal that the body of the press release has come to an end.
Still, the number of pages of a news release should be thought through…
…Because a news release that is too long will simply not be read.
In most cases, a news release should only be one page and in some instances two.
More information should be linked to a website or offer a link to download high resolution photos, PDF documents, etc.
Some PR agencies prefer to use -Ends- instead of using the famous ###.
It serves the same purpose and you need to know what your recipients are accustomed to.
5. The news release should conclude with a brief section about the company or organization that is putting out the release.
This should be a very short section of no more than two to three sentences.
More information about the company or organization can be referenced through a link to a website or other social media content.
Text spent on discussing the company should not be more than one sentence long.
Unless the nature of the news release is to announce the formation or merger of a new company or organization, discussion about the organization should be limited.
6. The text of the news release should be written in the clear language that the reader can quickly read and understand.
Each paragraph should be made up of three to four concise and well constructed sentences.
The purpose is for the news release to be read and understood quickly so immediate action can take place on the nature of the information presented.
Verbose language and long paragraphs will have the exact opposite effect the news release was intended to have and no action will be taken.
Remember, the devil is in the details.
7. The style and font / font size of the news release should be selected so the reader can actually read the release.
The press release should be in a font style that is traditional / classical and in a point size that is not too small. (I prefer font size 13 and above for the body text).
Each line should be double-spaced and special characters should be avoided.
The news release should not be prepared in all caps.
Such a document is very hard to read and is not a professional product.
8. The news release should be properly edited in standard editorial prose.
Emojis and vernacular language that are common in social media should not be used. (When was the last time a prestigious publication used those?)
The reader should be able to understand the news release regardless of the social content.
The news release should also be edited in a standard editorial style that is the norm for modern press and media today.
Any quotes and references should be properly notated.
9. The press release should be sent via a medium that the reader is expected to receive and read the release.
Many readers no longer receive facsimiles. Even electronic faxes are falling out of use.
Many media outlets – as well as consumers of press releases – receive press releases as attachments to emails or the news release is the actual email.
In a few rare instances, press releases are distributed in hard copy form at the actual event.
In today’s era of smartphones and tablet devices, the writer of a press release should understand that the vast majority of readers will review the news release on their smart phone, laptop, or tablet.
10. Make sure the information is accurate and correct.
The information in a press release is just as credible as an article in a newspaper or a news report on radio or television.
In many instances, the news release will be the quoted-source for any subsequent news report.
It is critical that all information in the news release is verified for its accuracy.
This includes any references or quotes, as well as the presentation of any statistical information.
Failure to do so will cast doubt on all aspects of the news release and the credibility of the author.
All sources used for the preparation of the news release should be double checked pursuant to media industry standards.
[Read also: Examples of successful press releases]
11. Use images, photos and illustrations only if it is essential to the information provided in the news release.
Most graphics can be referenced with a link in the news release. This includes maps and directions.
With the wide spread use of mapping applications in cars and smart phones, a reader of a news release only needs the address to obtain directions to any location that is relevant to the news release.
Any data or numbers mentioned in a news release should be concise and straight to the point in supporting the subject matter of the release.
The numbers should be easy to understand and clearly presented and accredited.
12. The press release should be a single topic release.
Issuing a press release with multiple topics will only cause confusion to the reader.
Additionally, the key point that the release is trying to make will be loss.
The topic of the release should draw the attention of the reader immediately within the first two sentences.
The delivery of the primary message of the news release information is paramount.
The focus is to convey important information so the reader can act on it upon receipt.
13. Send your press release only once on one topic… Unless there is new information about the event or product.
Multiple press releases that state the same content will be similar to the expression of the “boy who cried wolf.”
Multiple releases on the same subject will devalue the information posted in the release.
The release will ultimately be ignored…
…Even worse, any future communications coming from your end might be “automatically” dumped in the spam folder.
14. Design your press release in the manner of a special news flash.
The release should key the reader that there is special information is being released ahead of the regular news cycle that warrants the readers attention.
The news release is mainly a special vehicle for conveying breaking news and reports.
Reduce the key elements of your news release to a news flash that readers can use on social media channels such as Twitter.
15. Always follow the key elements of “who,” “what,” “when,” and “where” in preparing a press release.
The order of the information should be based on nature of the news release.
Sometimes the “where” is more important than the who.
If NASA were to land on Mars, the lead would be “Men land on Mars“.
In most cases the news release will write itself.
16. Proofread your news release for any grammatical errors or mistakes.
The final draft of the news release should be flawless.
Have a professional proofreader go through it before you send it out.
This is very crucial because…
Typos mean you are not professional.
Typos mean you’ve written the press release in a rush, and worse, may contain wrong information, more hidden mistakes.
17. The press release should not promote propaganda or slogans.
Such a document is not a news release but rather political campaign literature.
While some political literature is done in a news release form, it is only done so to advance a political agenda or engage in political humor.
18. The context should avoid any defamatory content.
The news release document should follow the same literary standards as any other media reporting.
Defamatory language will turn most readers away from the release and harm the credibility of the author.
Generally speaking, in the world of public relations, defamatory language is your gateway to hell. Avoid it at all costs.
19. Quotes in a press release should be relevant.
The person you are quoting should be of note and relevance.
If the person is not that famous, their title and position should dictate the reason why you are quoting them. Hence making the purpose of the news release self-evident.
Yes, many in the industry fabricate / come up with quotes and claim someone has said it.
Such tactics won’t take you far in an industry that neither forgets nor forgives easily.
20. Press releases about breaking news should follow the Reuters News Alert drill procedure.
This will require a news release closer to 100 characters.
While the brevity of the press release may require a followup release with more detail…
…The initial “alert” release will have a better chance of making it to the news wire services.
21. Journalistic standards of professionalism and the protection of sources also apply to press releases.
While the nature of the release needs to be truthful and accurate, a protected source should be clearly identified as one.
This will maintain the journalistic integrity of the release and maintain the reputation of the author of the release.
22. A press release should be original content in all aspects.
Cite and note all of your sources properly and clearly, as we mentioned before.
Avoid the urge to cut and paste information without citing sources at all times.
23. Links should be provided which provide the entire content of the news release in other languages.
There are a number of media outlets which are in foreign languages.
If the reader can convert the press release to his / her language with the simple click on a link…
…The reader will find it more useful and will most probably circulate it, even if read from a smartphone.
24. Be very clear in targeting your audience while preparing your news release.
Unless the press release is targeting a technical audience, you should construct it in a plain simple language.
Use terms / language that the targeted reader can easily understand.
25. Clearly note the Information about the author of the release under the heading listing. i.e. “For Further Information Contact #.”
This will enable the reader of the release to contact the author for follow-up information.
The reader or other news outlets may plan to follow-up with interviews or other follow-up articles on the subject matter.
The information provided should include a phone number and an email address.
Did you know that using an exclamation mark (!) or FULL CAPS in your subject line / title / copy can automatically mark your press release as SPAM?
Sad but true.
In today’s world, where spammers opt to any and possible means to spam, email servers look for any tiny reason to spot spam emails.
They look for practices used by spammers to sneak their spam emails to inboxes.
Of those, using: !!, %, save money, free, click here, etc. in your news release will most probably land your press release in the spam folder of your recipients.
And the tip of all tips,
After you send out your great press release, make sure to follow-up with your distribution list. News reporters receive with tons of releases everyday. They will want to hear from you when you have something relevant and timely to say. Be it a phone call or an email, you’ve got to be brief, nice, and quick.
Try to get some feedback from the reporters about your release, and ask what can you do next time to make it even better.
One point though, don’t follow-up on each release you send out, rather the real good ones.
You will find more tips on how to write quick yet successful press releases in My Guide to Writing Press Releases, which you can buy from Gumroad and download right away.