How to Write a Press Release

What is it? It is an announcement of an event, a performance, or other newsworthy item that is issued to attract the attention of the press. It answers the five questions (AKA 5Ws): what, who, where, when and why? It is a method utilized by organizations to commission and release studies, announce new or unique programs, celebrate successful fundraising campaigns, introduce new staff or comment on current events. Releases should generally be sent one to two weeks prior to the publication date of the newspaper where you’d like it to appear or at least two days prior to the event it publicizes.

What are the elements of a press release?

  • Release date:
    • For Immediate Release
    • For Release (Date)
  • Contact information
  • Headline
  • Dateline
  • Lead Paragraph – grasps readers’ attention; focuses on 5 Ws
    • Lead paragraph is part of “text” part of release and should be double spaced
  • Text-main body
  • Recap-summary; organization info/history; contact summary (“For additional information contact…”)

What is the format?

  • All flushed to the left with no indentation.
  • One inch margins all the way around.
  • Double-space the actual text section of the release and only use one side of the page.
  • Use 8 1/2″ X 11″ letterhead that includes the organization’s name, log, address, and telephone number – fir the first page of the release. Use plain bond paper. If the organization doesn’t have it own letterhead, type out the name, address, telephone number, fax number, single-spaced at the top left-hand corner of the sheet.
  • FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – under the letterhead and always in caps or release date – FOR RELEASE MAY, 1996
  • Conctact information should come directly underneath. This includes, the name and position of the person who is most informed on the subject, the company name, the phone number (be sure to include a day and evening number), fax number, address, and URL and e-mail address.
  • The headline follows contact information.
  • Text (double-spaced from here)
    • Text Dateline
      • City and state the release is being sent from and the date it is being mailed, followed by two hyphens (–) and then text may begin, EX: MACOMB, IL, Oct. 31, 2000 –
    • Lead Paragraph should follow dateline (–lead paragraph)
    • Line space between paragraphs
    • It is important that the paragraph on the bottom of one page does not run over to the top of the next (each page should be complete unto itself)
    • At the end of a page put – more – centered on the bottom line
    • The second page (and all following pages) should have an abbreviated form of the headline (in bold) and page 2 in brackets on the top line. Ex: Write Press Releases (page 2)
    • Recap – cover all the essential information: contact (not all, just name, number, email), product, company, or other news bit with a brief summary of what the news is)
    • End with short paragraph of organization history
  • On the last page of the release you place ###, -30- (the traditional Morse Code signoff), ***, or END – on the bottom line.

What are dos and don’ts of press release writing?

  • Do make sure that your subject is newsworthy.
  • Do get and use good quotes in your press release. It gives the organization control of what they want the media to publish as well as relieving some extra work for reporters.
  • Do send photographs if available.
    • Provide information about photo using a label and stick it to the back of the photo – where it is, what it is and who it is
  • Do get your timing right – too early and it may be overlooked/too late and it will not receive publicity.
  • Do keep all the important information at the top of release (editors cut releases from the bottom)
  • Don’t repeatedly call to check if the editor received your release.
  • Don’t send off a release that is poorly written or hasn’t been proofread by more than one person.
  • Don’t write a long release including unnnecessary information.
    • Try to confine release to one page if possible

Example of press release

Type “sample press release” using any on-line search engine for additional examples (and there are a lot of them!)

Resources

  • Ashcroft, Linda. (1994). Effective press releases. Library Management, 15 (8), 24-27.
  • Dobkin, Jeffrey. (1996). Getting your press release into print. Agency Sales Magazine, 26(12), 34-38.
  • Lanning, Rick. (1993). How to write a press release that gets published! Supervision, 54(1), 9-11.
  • M. Booth & Associates, Inc. (1995). Promoting issues and ideas: A guide to public relations for nonprofit organizations. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data.
  • Marken, G.A. (1994). Press releases: When nothing else will do, do it right. Public Relations Quarterly, 39(3), 9-11.
  • Morton, Linda. (1993). Producing publishable press releases: A research perspective. Public Relations Quarterly, 37(4), 9-11.
  • Schuttrow, Chuck. (1996). Community planners, news media share common interest. Rural Research Report, 7(5).
  • Weiner, Richard. (1978). Professional’s guide to publicity. New York: Richard Weiner, Inc.
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