How to write a press release

My best friend has a talented daughter who wrote her first song at the age of eight. Her uncle added a musical accompaniment and recorded it as a surprise present for them both. When I heard about this, I wrote them a press release under the headline ‘Brighton girl wins X Factor 2012’. It was picked up by their local press and BBC local radio station and they were interviewed live on air. The Beeb even played a bit of the song.

Journalists are always looking for stories. In order to get them interested in you, you need to undertake a PR campaign. That means sending press releases that include an angle that interests their readers (not a sales pitch). Of course you can pay a PR professional, or you can do it yourself.

So what are the key elements to include in your press releases?

– Have a strong story to tell

– Research the publication or media outlet to match their style

– Make it relevant or don’t send it at all

– Head the release with a one- or two-word filename

– Keep it simple, just three or four paragraphs of three or four sentences each, with a logical flow and no jargon

– Present the information in decreasing order of importance as it will be cut from the bottom up

– Use a headline that sums up the story (you don’t have to think up a clever pun as sub-editors will probably rewrite it to suit their house style). It can be easiest to write the headline last.

– Add a sub-heading to explain more if necessary.

– Link the introductory paragraph to recently reported statistics OR a hot topical theme OR answer, Who, What, When, Where, Why OR start with a compelling quote.

– Include up to three case studies to give that all-important human interest angle

– Write your opinion as “quotes” from the expert

– Finish with your contact details so people know where they can find out more. Stress that you are available for interview anytime as journalists may contact you outside office hours (and make sure that you are! If they can’t get in touch when they want you, they’re likely to drop your story and use someone else’s)

– At the end of the article, write ENDS.

– Type two hyphens as a divider – –

– Then include background information such as a summary of what you do or the company history.

– Attach a picture that tells a story (captioned)

– Now just proofread your press release and send it in the body of an email (not as an attachment).

Top tips

Don’t contact journalists just before deadline day when they’re busiest. Instead, try contacting them immediately afterwards (when they’ve got lots of space to fill).

Build relationships with journalists so they recognise you as an industry expert.

Note there is no guarantee your press release will be used, no matter how good it is!

Good luck.

I originally wrote this article for Fresh Business Thinking

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