Writing a Press Release

A press release is the most basic tool of communicating information to the media

To help promote and raise the profile of your event, you may want to consider preparing a press release.  Newspapers, magazines, websites and broadcasters receive hundreds of press releases every week – so your challenge is to make yours stand out from the crowd.

Journalists look for a story that is of local interest, is relevant to as many people as possible and has good picture potential. Make sure you think about this when you decide on a title and first paragraph for your news release.

Before you start writing your press release

Find out who is the best person to send a press release to – the news editor, features editor, picture editor or arts editor etc.
Do you need to target more than one person or department on the same newspaper, magazine, television or radio programme?
If you are sending to a TV channel or radio station, find out who the producer and researcher are and also send to the forward planning desk.
Always find out their production/publication deadlines so you send it at the right time – typically two or three weeks for a weekly publication, ten days for a daily publication or two months for a monthly publication.
Look at some articles already produced by publications or journalists you are thinking of approaching – it will give you an indication of style and of the kind of language they use.
Get journalists interested in your event by phoning and briefly explaining what you would like to send them – this will let you know quickly if they are interested.

How to write a press release

Think carefully about what the key message is that you would like to get across.
Put the words ‘Press Release’ in bold at the top.
Put either an embargo date (when it can be used from) or put ‘for immediate release‘, with the release or issue date. When you use the embargo option, you need to put ‘embargoed until 00.01 am’ with the release date that you want after it.
Think of a short and snappy title or quote as a headline, which will both attract attention and summarise the press release. This should be in bold with a larger font size and underlined.  If your event is difficult to sum up in five or six words, use a sub heading to describe further.
Use key words that grab attention like ‘launch’, ‘first’ and any significant figures, whether financial or expected attendance etc.
The first paragraph should ideally contain the five ‘Ws’:
Who are you?
What are you launching or hosting and what are your aims?
Why does the media need to know about your event?
When is the event happening?
Where is the event taking place (date, time, location)?
The following paragraphs should add more detail about your event.
There should be ideally two positive and strong quotes from relevant spokespeople that support the key message of the press release.  Their name, job title or status should appear before their quote.
Aim to make the press release no longer than two pages.  When the main text of the release has finished, put ‘-ends-’ to let the journalist know that the main content is complete.
After the main content, there is the ‘Notes to Editor’ section that should contain any relevant background information not already mentioned. Full details of the event including key times for journalists to conduct interviews or photographers to take pictures should go here, along with further information on your group, how the event is funded or any partnerships you have made.
List key contacts who can be approached for more information with their email address and telephone number and what times they can be contacted. Good, confident spokespeople who fully understand the event, its aims and will be happy to be interviewed.
You should try to avoid jargon, flowery language and jokes.
Ensure your press release has been proof read for accuracy.
Always include images that are interesting and eye catching; embed a low resolution image in your press release as busy editors often do not have the time to open separate image files.

Make sure you write in a concise, lively style and find aspects of your event that you feel will catch a reader’s eye and interest immediately. Include information about the people who are involved with – this makes it more relevant to local people who read the story.  Frequently, an editor might use sections of your press release without editing them further so it is important that you have composed your press release in a way that a journalist can ‘cut and paste’.

 After sending your press release

After two days always follow up your press release with a phone call to the person it was sent to but be prepared to resend your press release.
Remind everyone you have contacted – newspapers, radio and TV a few days and a month before your event and to let them know of any breaking news.
Check to see if and when any coverage is going to appear so you can either be sent or purchase copies.

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