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How to write a press release

Posted: 2012-06-14 in How To    |   Tagged: b2b press release, press release, press release format, press release structure, write a media release


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.

Structure of a press release


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:



Headline that captures attention


Headline should...

  • Inform the reader of the content of the release
  • Usually six words or less
  • Usually contains a verb
  • Gain attention or capture gatekeeper’s and readers’ attention and interest

Lead paragraph


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.



  • Flows from lead and follows inverted pyramid for information (makes it easier for journalist to cut information if required for space constraints) – remember, remainder of 5Ws and the H must be included by the end of the first 3 paragraphs
  • Uses verbs rather than adjectives
  • Uses quotes from relevant sources to offer opinions (paraphrase first, then quote)
  • Provides reader with relevant facts
  • Uses appropriate language with correct grammar and news style punctuation


Contact details for more information


Boilerplate (standard ‘about us’ descriptions of the organisations involved)


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


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. 

For example:

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:

  • Keep it in present tense: If it’s news then it’s happening now, so write in present tense.
  • Use simple, direct language.
  • Watch your grammar: A company is a singular entity, so don’t refer to it as a plural. Numbers from one to nine are written and 10 and upwards are numbered. Use per cent, not %.
  • Use quotes: Introduce speakers before you quote them, and if possible paraphrase but for the key quote.He/she said, not says. For example, Fred Jones, the zookeeper responsible for the gorillas’ escape, apologised to those wounded as a result of his mistake. “I can’t begin to express my deep regret for my actions,” he said. Take note of apostrophes, semi colons and Americanisms and buy an English dictionary and get a grip. It’s not that hard. Oh, and it’s use, not utilise/utilisation.



Generally, the media are looking for the following elements for the news:

  • Emotion
  • Controversy
  • Innovative, new or first
  • Quirky, entertaining or unique
  • Disaster, tragedy or destruction
  • Sensational

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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The inverted pyramid concept is really helpful. No doubt most important matter should be placed right at the top.

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Thu 22nd January, 2015

I would say that it's better to send ten press releases with a personal cover letter than spam 1,000 and get no response. In all cases, your value as a PR person is about the number of relationships you have created… not about how many press releases you send. Otherwise you can opt for <a href="http://www.pressreleasewritingservice.biz/">press release writing service</a> to get the task done in a professional way.


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