Now that you know what a press release is, and you’ve established that your story is newsworthy, Niamh Kinsella (@minteressant), from TopLine Communications provides a detailed guide to writing a press release.
Press releases work to a formula, so follow it enough times and writing them will become automatic as it will be burned into the back of your retinas. Three concepts to keep in mind when writing press releases are: the inverted pyramid, language and newsworthiness.
Here is a basic structure for a press release. Most PRs are very familiar with some form of this structure, but a few keen bean grads trying to break into PR won’t be:
DD Month, Location – First sentence should build on the headline and be 25 words or less, containing three or more of the 5 Ws and H – who, what, when, where, why and how.
What I think is more valuable for PRs is the inverted pyramid rule, which should dictate how you put together the press release and the order in which you present your information.
The ‘inverted pyramid’ is simple: put the most important details first, and supporting information last. The pyramid gives journalists the story according to how important the information is, so depending on how much space they have they can cut your story down without missing any key details.
Putting less important details at the beginning of a press release will make your story sound crap and piss journalists off. If a journalist can’t see the story in the first 40 words the release you spent hours writing will go in the ‘too hard’ pile, AKA the bin.
A stampede of rabid gorillas is on a murderous rampage through the city centre after being set loose by a forgetful zookeeper. Fred Jones, of East Dulwich, left the enclosure unlocked between nine and 11 pm, during which time the animals made their escape. The gorillas, which have been in quarantine for the past week, are believed to have contracted rabies after coming into contact with an infected rat in their enclosure last week.
Nobody cares about Fred’s memory lapse or even how and why the gorillas have rabies. People need to know the Who, What, When, Where, and Why. Journalists care about where the gorillas are, what they are doing, and what people need to do so they won’t be torn limb from limb in the street during their lunch break. The How is important, and often the part that is most relevant to your client, but it’s not the part that makes the news.
A stampede of rabid gorillas is on a murderous rampage in central London this morning, and attacking anyone wearing yellow clothing. The 15 gorillas have maimed four people as of 9 am, after escaping from London Zoo earlier this morning, possibly mistaking them for giant bananas.
People in the areas of Covent Garden and Soho are warned not to approach the animals, but to remain indoors and dispose of or hide any bananas or yellow clothing.
The language you use in news style writing is not up for debate. My top tips for news writing are:
Generally, the media are looking for the following elements for the news:
In B2B it can be harder to pick out what’s newsworthy, so see Heather Baker’s post on what is NOT a news story – Trade shows, I’m looking at you.
Browse our other posts on using press releases to gain coverage or, if you're not up to writing it yourself, get a copywriting agency on the job.
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