Tips for writing a newsworthy press release

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Most businesses know that one of the most common and essential methods of attracting the media’s attention is to distribute a press release.

The advent of modern communications technology means that this can now be achieved by broadcast e-mail. A good press release should grab attention and contain the entire story. Think of the popular political commentary show W5 and answer the five basic questions: who, what, where, when, why. Also, imagine the press release as a pyramid with your opening statement addressing the point of your release and additional paragraphs providing more information and widening the base.

What is your key message? Be succinct and write for your audience. Ask yourself if the journalist really needs that information. Is it relevant?

Use appropriate language. If your audience is the mainstream media and you’re trying to reach the average person, don’t use language that only you and your business members understand.  Try to avoid acronyms and terms that are specific to your industry.

Make sure to add in a personal quote. The best quotes are short, memorable and relevant.  Include the name and title of the person providing the quote. Finally, provide a contact person and number in case the journalists require additional information.

Newsrooms today are much smaller than they once were, so a journalist’s time is precious. Just because your announcement or event is important to your business doesn’t mean it is important to a media source or the community. Tailor your press release to your media source’s interest and be prepared to pitch your story in a newsworthy manner with a follow-up phone call. Most importantly, ensure that your press release features a catchy headline. Often, a news reporter will only read the headline and the first few lines of a press release to see if it is relevant, important or interesting. Make sure the beginning of your press release is packed with punch.

For more information please feel free to contact me at 613-233-8906 or by e-mail at huw@impactcanada.com with questions or comments.

Huw Williams is President of Impact Public Affairs, an Ottawa-based public relations and government relations firm specializing in finding innovative strategic communications and advocacy solutions for large industry associations. Over the years, Impact has been recognized nationally and internationally for the effective and creative public affairs campaigns that it has created for its client.

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