How to write a press release

Journalists receive hundreds of press releases every day – how do you cut through the noise? A well-written press release (this can just be an email) which grabs their attention is key.

The first thing to know is: journalists are not scary. People often worry about getting in touch with a newspaper but guess what? They need you to contact them. Journalists want to hear stories which are a good fit for their audience. If you have researched the publication, know the audience is the right one for you and have checked you are sending the email to the right person (ring up and ask if you’re not sure who deals with your subject), then you are on the right track.

Person typing. Photo: Christin Hume

Write an attention-grabbing introduction

Have you ever been asked to pitch your business in 12 words or less? It’s a good exercise and also a useful way to think about your press release. If you’re not sure how to tell your story then think how you would tell someone the gist of your news in a sentence. What are you doing? Why should someone reading your story in the paper be interested? How will it benefit them? This should give you your introduction. A clear message saying what the article is about which makes the audience want to read on.

Remember, your press release shouldn’t be about you. It needs to be relevant to the reader of the publication you are sending it to. If the journalist has to wade through information they don’t need, or doesn’t think it will interest their readers, you’re not going to get a response.

Stick to the point

What does the reader need to know? Make sure you have answered the key questions: who, what, where, why, when and how. If it is about an event, check you have included where it is happening, the date and the time, including a finish time if it’s something going on all day.

Once you have finished writing your press release, take a break, then come back to it, read it through, and ask yourself: “would this make sense if I didn’t know the topic?”

Include a quote

Whether you are launching a new business, organising an event or holding a protest, people will want to hear directly from you. Your press release should include at least one direct quote from yourself or someone representing your organisation.

Use the quote as an opportunity to add some colour. Tell people what they will see, hear or do or explain why what you’re doing matters. Think about how you would tell someone about what you’re doing face to face.

Don't overwrite

A press release should easily fit on a side of A4. A main story on a page is likely to be around 300-350 words. Don’t write 600 words. You’re just making work for the journalist who will have to cut it back.

If they decide your story would make a double-page feature or a long read on the website then they will get in touch and interview you.

Take a photo which illustrates your story. This is a picture of Le Chaux by Miha Jan Strehovec.

Remember to include pictures

Words on a page don’t look very inviting and the publication will have a picture desk who will be asked to come up with something to illustrate the story. Make it easy for them and send in a picture you’ve had taken or tell them when and where they can send a photographer to take one.

Please remember copyright! If the photo is not yours, check it’s ok to use it.

Video is increasingly important too. If you have footage you can share or an opportunity for someone to come and shoot some then put in a note that this is an option.

Include your contact details

Make it easy for the journalist to get in contact with you. Include both daytime and evening phone numbers and if possible a second person they can get in contact with if they can’t get hold of you. Stories are often written in a short period of time and if a journalist can’t get hold of you before deadline, they have a problem.

Writing a press release sounds daunting but if you stick to these basic rules you will be sending the right kind of information for a journalist to judge if you have a story they would like to run.

Rachel Extance (photo by Jemima Willcox)

Rachel Extance helps business tell their stories so they can reach a wider audience for their work and ideas. A professional journalist, she knows how to write stories people find relevant and engaging. If you would like help to get your message across, need someone who can write articles for you regularly, or you would like actionable ideas for how to tell more people about what you do, get in touch by emailing rachel@extance.co.uk or contact her on social media.

Leave a comment