A press release is a PR tool for communicating with journalists and promoting your programme or event. It answers the questions who, what, why, when, where and how and is typically spit into 4-5 short paragraphs which will also include 2 relevant quotes.
Headline: one sentence that peaks interest
Paragraph 1. Arrange the information in order of importance. What is the most important aspect of the message that you are trying to get across? Is it the who, the what, the why, the where or the how? Ideally the first paragraph will answer as many of these questions as possible. Journalists are busy people and they often won’t read to the end.
The easiest way to start is simply write down each of these questions and then answer them; it will help you prioritize your message.
Paragraph 2. A quote from a person relevant to the story strategically thought out to communicate as much about your message as possible. No, it doesn’t have to be something they actually said, they just have to agree with it and ‘ok’ it before you send out your release. Make sure you add credibility by saying say who the person is, what they do and/or where they work.
Paragraph 3. Additional information regarding other interesting aspects of the story (but not a new story) this may be embellishments of the who, what, why, where, how questions – but make sure it is pertinent and use your words wisely.
Paragraph 4. A second quote that illuminates more about the story. Can be from the same person or someone new, but again say who they are, where they work and what they do.
Paragraph 5. A concluding paragraph that contains the least significant material you want to communicate. Sometime the dates and times of the event are put here or ‘who to contact’ in regards to the programme or event.
As a whole, a good press release will almost function as a mini article, you know you have done well when a paper prints it verbatim.
Make sure you include addresses, dates, times, ensure there are no typos or spelling mistakes, have someone else proof read it before you send it out. Edit until your release flows beautifully.
Send your press release to the attention of journalist(s) you think may be interested in your topic or addressed to the editor of the subsection you are submitting to, ie. the lifestyle editor, the Body and Soul section etc. Be sure to use their name and spell it correctly.
Ensure your own contact details are included. (see example below and lay it out in this fashion on a piece of organisational letterhead if possible.)
CONTACT: Julia Ruppert
07711 938 921
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(or the date for when it is to be released)
Catchy headline in bold font and larger type centred
In answering your who, what, why, when and where you will hone your message. Through this exercise you may also find that what you thought was the most important thing, is in fact not.
“Writing a press release is a art, but your goal is to communicate with your journalist and let them use their craft,” (get any more how’s or whys into your quote – use it strategically) says Julia Ruppert, Founder of Collective Arts, a non-profit arts organization that delivers creative programming to a wide range of communities in Richmond Borough (see how I snuck more information in here).
In the second paragraph you can provide more information that sounds paraphrased, but is not a quote. Ruppert goes on to add how it is also important to write in the language of the people you are trying to communicate with and avoid any jargon.
In a press release, the more you can condense your language down the better. You are not looking to impress anyone with your florid terms, that’s the journalists’ job. If they have any more questions they will call you.
“Once you have sent out your release you will need to call the journalist(s) to confirm that they have received it. This is essential,” adds Ruppert. “If you can, develop a relationship, invite them in to see where you work, ask if they have any more questions. You may also want to include images or invite them to bring a photographer down.”
Finish off with any dates or times of your event and/or details of people who can be contacted for more information.
In North America finish the release with -30- and in the UK ENDS, this lets the journalist know there are no missing pages.