When you’ve got a story you want to tell the world, you need to put it into in a press release and send it to the media. But how do you write one that will make editors take notice? Here’s our handy ten-step guide:
1. Don’t panic – Nobody’s looking for an extended metaphor or a spot of iambic pentameter. The art of press release writing is to be as clear, concise and relevant as possible. You need to use plain English and get to the point straight away.
2. Gather all the information on the product / campaign / initiative – Read it all carefully. Ensure you understand the topic thoroughly. If there are any information gaps, this is the stage where you do some research and fill them in.
3. Decide on the news angle – This requires you to think like a journalist and the best way to do that is by being familiar with the media outlets you’re targeting and their readerships/audiences. So get reading! That way you’ll know the type of stories journalists want and how to focus your announcement accordingly.
4. Make a plan – It may seem time-consuming, but this will actually speed things up. Lay out a series of bullet points – one for each of the four/five paragraphs the release will contain and an extra bullet point for the spokesperson quote (which should feature around the third paragraph, unless you can persuade someone to provide a truly unexpected quote, then you can move it nearer the top). Write down key words against each.
5. Open with a bang – Your opening paragraph should focus only on the chosen angle and contain the ‘what’, ‘where’, ‘when’, ‘why’ and ‘how’. Ideally, it should be around 35 words. If someone only reads this first paragraph, they should have the basics of the story. After this opening, arrange the rest of the information in descending order of importance. Your paragraphs, like your sentences, should be short and snappy.
6. Turn your notes into prose – Keep it tight, bright and grammatically correct. Short, factual sentences are much better than long ones full of adjectives and adverbs.
7. Spend about 40% of time on the first paragraph – Most journalists will only read this (if they read any of it at all!).
8. Write the headline once the rest of the release has been drafted. This will ensure it’s an accurate synopsis. And don’t worry about being clever or cryptic. Just sum the story up succinctly.
9. Sub your copy – Take a break and then re-read what you’ve written. Think about: news relevance, key messaging, grammar and spelling. If you can cut a word, then do so. You want to get your story told as quickly as possible. The shorter, the better.
10. Get a colleague to proof – All journalists, novelists and writers have their copy proofed by someone else. It’s human nature to have a blind spot when it comes to our own mistakes. Make sure someone else checks your copy before it goes out to the press.
Alternatively, if all this still seems daunting, why don’t you pay a professional to write and distribute a press release for you? If you’re an environmentally business or organisation, you could always consider us!