Did you know that one of the best ways to promote your business, and inform people about your products and services, is through media coverage? While impressing an editor and securing column inches in the paper, or a mention on the radio, is notoriously difficult, it can be done. Here’s how to write a killer press release that will grab the attention of even the most fickle news editor

What is a Press Release?

A press release is a written communication which is distributed to the media to inform editors, publishers and producers about a given topic, with the hopes that they will print or broadcast the story.

How to Write a Press Release

Press releases are a somewhat of an art to write, and are usually prepared by a specialist PR writer or publicist, with a background in journalism. If you can afford to do so, hiring a publicist will give your press release a better chance of being published or broadcast. But if your marketing communications budget is tight, and you need to be your own publicist, follow these press release top tips:

  • Your press release must follow the correct press release format in order to be taken seriously by editors, publishers and producers. In addition to detailing your story, in a news style, be sure to include your company information and contact details, and point to any further resources in a ‘Notes to Editor’ section at the end. Take a look at Business Owl’s Press Release Template to see how it’s done.
  • Not only must your press release follow a certain format, it must also adhere to a certain journalistic style. Publicity stories are usually presented in the Inverted Pyramid, answering the essential questions of any news story – who, what, where, how and why.
  • Newsworthy press releases only, please – the bottom line is that editors and journalists don’t care about you, your company or your products. Unless you happen to have a truly great news story. So, for them to want to print or broadcast your story, it needs a genuine hook (news angle) which will appeal to their particular (and increasingly jaded) audiences.
  • To get the attention of the editor, think like the editor – how will the story you’re pitching in your press release sell more copies of a newspaper or attract more listeners to a radio show? And remember, timing is critical – stale stories are spiked stories (that is, eliminated before publication).
  • Rather than sending out a mass broadcast, take the time to tailor your press release to each of your media contacts. Different publications, radio or TV shows cater to different audiences, so craft hooks which will appeal to each one.
  • Press releases need to be free from grammar and spelling errors – do run a spelling check before distributing your press release.
  • Editors prefer stories to be presented in plain black text, so stay away from fancy fonts and lots of colours – not only does it detract from the story, but it makes the editor’s life more difficult when s/he wants to copy and paste from your press release.
  • If your story has a good visual angle, include a photograph. Often, publications end up with odd white spaces in their copy and, with print deadlines looming, editors grasp around for page fillers. Your photograph – with a short caption taken from your press release – may be just what the editor ordered.

Want to know more about writing a press release?

Read The Public Relation Writer’s Handbook (Jossey-Bass Publishers) by Merry Aronson, Don Spetner and Carol Ames.