Five Things to Keep in Mind When Writing a Press Release

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If you’ve never written a press release before, that blank page can seem intimidating. What do you write? How do you format it? Before you get started, here are five tips for writing a kicking press release.

#1: Keep It Simple & Short
Just like many fields, journalism has seen its cuts in recent years. Pew Research found that newsrooms shrank by 10 percent in 2014, the greatest cuts since 2009. However, they estimate that hundreds of jobs (400 at the count of the study’s publication in 2016) are continuing to be cut.

With shrinking newsrooms, you need to catch a reporter’s attention quickly, and promise not to take up too much of their time (i.e. keeping it short). Reporters like material that is short and to the point. As a former reporter, nothing turned me off of a release more than pages of text.

#2: Answer the 5 Ws and an H
While you’re keeping it short and sweet, you need to keep the important details. You need to answer the Who, What, Where, When, Why and How for your story idea. Missing these points will create an incomplete story– and how is the reporter suppose to come out if they don’t know things like the location, date or time?

#3: Don’t Assume They’ll Read to the End
Your 5Ws and an H should all be in the first few sentences. Don’t wait to tell the reporter about your event until the end of paragraph four. If that’s the main point of your release, make it prominent. Give it a lead in your press release. Don’t treat it like a side thought. You shouldn’t assume that a reporter will read to the end.

#4: Catchy Headline and Lede
As established, reporters are looking for quick bits of information that they can then build on through interviews and observations. So, make what they’re reading interesting. If you don’t grab their attention at the start, they 100 percent will not make it to the end.

#5: Contact Details
I feel like this should be self explanatory, but contact details should always be on your release. How can someone ask for more information or let you know if they’re attending when you don’t provide a phone number or email? Don’t assume that your emailed press release will stay with the person you sent it to– they could forward it to another reporter and your contact details would be lost.

Even with these five tips in mind, you are never guaranteed a media story. However, by keeping it simple and interesting, the more likely you are to succeed in catching someone’s attention.