50 Press Release Writing TIps

Everyone knows that writing and distributing a press release can bring free publicity to your business or organization. The problem is that most media outlets are flooded with hundreds of press releases every single day. So to make the press release stand out and avoid having it filed in the wastebasket, you have to craft your press release carefully.

We’ve talked to a number of news editors, journalists, and public relations professionals, to develop the following guidelines. If you can follow these guidelines, your press release is much more likely to turn into a news story that gets you the free publicity you seek.

  1. Identify Yourself Clearly – Your business or organization should be prominently displayed. We recommend displaying the source of the news at the top of the press release.
  2. Be Newsworthy – The entire point of a news release is to distribute news related to your business. So if your news release doesn’t contain news, you shouldn’t even bother sending it.  If you submit news that isn’t truly newsworthy, the editors will just learn to ignore you.
  3. Keep Up-To-Date – News by its very nature should be current. If the news in your release is outdated you shouldn’t be sending it. Yesterday’s news is today’s history.
  4. Personalize Your Distribution – Get the name of the person you are sending your press release to and place it in a prominent position. Be sure to double-check the spelling.
  5. Stay Relevant – Journalists want news that is relevant to their audience. Writing to meet the needs of the publication your submitting to greatly improves your odds of inclusion.
  6. Make Yourself Reachable – Provide a specific contact person with a phone number where they can be reached. Don’t make contacting you a challenge. In fact it’s a good idea to include an email address, web address, and fax number as well.
  7. Remain On-Topic – The focus of your news story should remain on the news. Off topic discussion and blatant self-promotion are likely to detract from the news story and annoy the editor.
  8. Date The News – Your media contact needs to know exactly when you’d like your press release to run. If you don’t specify a date, you should explicitly allow for immediate release.
  9. Relate to Popular Topics – One method that can earn you coverage is link your news, organization, or business to popular news. Many news stories do nothing more than explain how a particular industry is effected by something else that happened.
  10. Compelling Headlines – Just like the rest of your marketing, you need a headline that will catch the attention of your intended audience (in this case the news editor). It will likely be the first thing the editor reads. If it doesn’t catch his attention, it will also be the last.
  11. Clear Headlines – Keep in mind that the reader should be able to catch the idea of your story from the headline alone. Focusing on the angle and idea of the story is more important than developing a ‘catchy’ slogan.
  12. Location Matters – You should define the location your press release originates from. Editors love to find a local angle on popular stories. And for certain industries, location matters. 
  13. Condense The News – You should try to tell the entire story in the first paragraph. The rest of the release can contain more details. But it’s nice to know that if everything else is cut, you still got your main points across. Being “top heavy” is a good thing.
  14. Personalize The Angle  – As soon as possible, you should provide your personal angle. The personal angle on the news is usually what is getting your organization plugged in the story. An effective way to do this is by utilizing quotes from well-known or qualified individuals.
  15. Highlight The Important Stuff – Utilize your subheads to their full advantage to highlight the most important parts of your story. Media professionals are busy people, so focus on the parts likely to interest them. We recommend including different subheads for each of your target markets.
  16. Consider Others  – You should avoid humorous material, especially if it could be perceived as sexist or racist. What is funny to some groups may be offensive to others.
  17. Localize It – Using quotes from each of your target markets is a great idea. News editors love quotes from respected individuals in their community or industry. Be sure to include quotes from groups that read the publications you have targeted with your press release.
  18. Remain Objective – Press releases are not the place for being biased. Journalists are seeking news. It may be ok to use later paragraphs for dispelling or confirming rumors, but it’s best to cover your bases with a little objectivity.
  19. Build Credibility – Quotes from your company’s senior executives should do. News releases are taken a much more seriously when the boss’s name is on the line.
  20. Positive Perception – If the local community could perceive your news in a negative manner, you should take extra care to highlight the potential positives of the announcement.
  21. Be Flexible – Be sure you can meet any timeline specified in the news report. If you can’t guarantee a particular future result, be flexible with your wording. A failure to deliver your specific results on time always brings about negative publicity.
  22. Demonstrate Positive Intentions  – If space permits, allow an executive of your organization to inject some human interest to the story. These types of quotes can be used to demonstrate compassion, show good intentions, or simply transition a negative story back to a positive tone.
  23. Appropriate Demographics – If you have an executive that better matches the demographics of your target audience, it is a good idea to use their quotes in the story. For example, a magazine on women’s business is much more likely to run a story, with a female spokesperson.
  24. Show Professionalism – Using a professional layout and avoid sloppiness to indicating seriousness. Understanding and abiding by industry standards for writing press releases is a great start. For example, always write your press releases in the 3rd person and end your press releases with “-30-” or “XXX”.
  25. Include Multimedia – Adding value to your press release by using visual tools such as photographs, charts, or video is an excellent way to gain more attention for your story. Just be sure the photos you submit are easily reproducible in both color and black and white.
  26. Place News First – Because readers want news, you should always include the news before the source. So before you state who made the announcement, you should actually write the announcement. For example, a news story about a new tobacco study should describe the results of the study, before describing who conducted it.
  27. Deal With Facts – News articles should include factual information. Leave the opinions for the editorial column. It is ok, however, to include quotes that feature opinions.
  28. Avoid Hype – Press releases are not an appropriate place for marketing copy. You should avoid excessive use of adjectives and other promotional language.
  29. Brevity Helps – You should include as much information as necessary for a journalist to do their job and write a story about the subject of your news release, but nothing more. Many public relations professionals recommend keeping your press release to one page. If a media professional needs more information he or she will contact you.
  30. Target Your Media – You should always write for the media type your targeting, but the same goes for submitting your news release. For a reporter, there is nothing more annoying than getting flooded with articles that aren’t at all related to your publication. So get your release into the right hands.
  31. Utilize Proper Attribution – If your press release includes information or quotes from other sources, it’s a good idea to attribute that information to the original source. This allows the journalist to verify the information, plus it provides credibility.
  32. Get Permission – When including individual’s quotes in your press release it’s always a good idea to get permission. Verbal permission is always that is usually required, but this can prevent future problems as well as clarify any misunderstandings.
  33. Proofread and Edit – You should always read over your press release before submitting it and have someone else look it over. A second set of eyes can often catch typos that you might miss.
  34. Communicate Pertinent Information – An old rule in journalism says that you should include the 5 W’s and H. This holds true for press releases. Be sure to answer the questions What, Who, When, Where, Why, and How.
  35. Include Company Information – If your company is going to take the time to write a news article, you should probably take the time to write a paragraph about the company. This gives the reporters a little background information on the business and qualifies the source of information.
  36. Avoid Jargon – Industry jargon isn’t appropriate for all publications. You need to keep your readers in mind when writing your release. Using common language makes your release easier to understand.
  37. Interest Your Audience – Keep your audience and the publications readers in mind. Before writing your press release you should consider why the news matters to them. Ask yourself if you’d want to read the press release, if you were in their shoes.
  38. Verify Accuracy – When it comes to numbers, names, and locations it’s easy to make mistakes. You should always double check everything to avoid embarrassing mistakes.
  39. Timely Release – For local events it is best to send your release to newspapers and television stations about 3 weeks before the event. For national magazines you will have to submit your event several months in advance.
  40. Clean Layout – For press releases submitted by mail, you should always double space them, number your pages, type “News Release” at the top, and include a release date.
  41. Be Truthful – It may be tempting to bend the truth to develop a better story, but you should avoid doing so. Media professionals have a rule of verifying information before publication.
  42. Use Controversy – A great way to generate publicity with your press release could be to create controversy (even where there is none). If you run a computer store, for example, you might consider a headline that says “Is your software stolen?” It doesn’t offend anyone, but instantly places you in a position to be the trustworthy whistle blower.
  43. Solve Problems – The media loves stories that explain how human innovation and creativity are solving our everyday problems. If you can explain how to fix a common problem, you’ll appear to be the expert. Alternatively, you might demonstrate how a solution is being developed.
  44. Use Events – Events are an excellent way to get your business in the headlines. If you host a conference, offer a class, or sponsor a local team you can likely generate some local publicity.
  45. Include Action Words – Writing in active voice is always more exciting than writing in passive voice. So you should try to utilize action verbs and words that draw the reader in and engage his or mind, instead of boring them.
  46. Be First – If you’re going to send a reporter news on a particular subject, be the first to report that news. You want to be fresh and original, taking something from last weeks paper and putting your name on it isn’t going to work.
  47. Call To Action – Make it clear what you want people to do after reading your press release. Tell them how to attend your meeting, how to join your club, or where they can find more information on the topic. Surely, there’s a reason you’re writing a news release.
  48. Use Quotable Quotes – If your quotes are memorable and honest they are far more likely to be used and remembered.
  49. Be Prepared – Just because your press release has been sent, doesn’t mean you’re done crafting your message. Be ready to answer calls from journalists and prepare statements for them. Keep a log of the questions they ask, because there’s a good chance that another reporter is going to ask the same thing.
  50. Hire A Professional – The media can be brutal. If there is anything you are hesitant about doing yourself, you might consider hiring a professional. There are public relations firms that specialize in writing press releases and there are professional press release distribution companies who can distribute them.