How To Write A Press Release}

How to Write a Press Release


Jane Herbert

Journalists write in a style that is easy to read.

Their intention is to catch the readers eye and then draw them to the end of the story. Very few people read all the stories in a publication. Instead we tend to look at the storys headline and if it interests us we read the first paragraph. If the article still has our attention after the first paragraph we might get further but it has to be really good, or very relevant, for any of us to reach the end of a story.

So, how do journalists attract a readers attention? They follow some basic rules – the same rules you should apply when writing a press release or story.


The rules for writing eye-catching stories are:-

1Choose a positive rather than a passive headline, i.e.

Profits Soar at MBEL rather than MBEL Announce Annual Results. Dont be too clever with it or it wont work! Make your headline say something about the story. It should be succinct (it should not run to more than one line) and give an indication of what is to come. The title should be typed in bold and should not be underlined. If a secondary subheading or side-head is needed, then these should be in upper and lower case, either in plain or bold.

2Your first paragraph – the introduction – should be sharp and short; between 20 and 30 words is ideal. Two sentences per paragraph is about right. Try to convey the main message of the release in the first paragraph.

3Keep sentences and paragraphs short. Use full stops instead of commas and keep punctuation simple and to a minimum. You do this because readers are less likely to reach the end of long sentences and every punctuation mark breaks their concentration. This can lead to them switching to another story. Three commas in one sentence is probably one too many.

4Avoid superfluous words like that and unnecessary adjectives and adverbs. You dont have to say something is marvellous or fantastic. If it is as good as you claim it is, it will be apparent from the text.

5Avoid long words. Newspaper and magazine columns are narrow. Long words often break over two lines and each hyphenated word means the reader is more likely to lose concentration and switch to another story.


6Why – are you writing this story?

What – are you writing about?

When – did it happen?

Who was involved?

Where – did it happen?

How – did it happen?

Put the most important points at the beginning of the press release. When you reach the end STOP. Never leave important facts for the end, dont summarise. If you leave your most important point until the end it might never be read. Also, editors cut from the bottom so your point might never make it into print.

7Write news not views. What you write should be factual. You can include commentaries but always attribute it to someone and put it in direct quotes.

8If there is a lot of technical data to be included put this in an attachment or in Notes to Editor.

9Always check the spelling of peoples names.

10Ideally your press release should be on one side of A4 paper and in double spacing. Leave a good margin on either side and at the top and the bottom of the page for editors marks.

11 Do not underline any of the copy. This is the universal mark used by printers for copy to be set in italics. Do not set any of the text in bold or italics. If a book, film or article is used within the text, put in single quotes.

12Always date the release.

13Always put a daytime contact name, telephone, fax and e-mail numbers at the bottom of the release.

14Keep the release as short as possible.

15Journalists dislike embargoes. Avoid them if possible, as they are not binding on the media and are there to give journalists time for research or follow-up before a speech, or in advance of an announcement by a company or organisation. If you decide to issue a release under embargo, make this clear above the title of the release.

16When issuing the release, dont forget timing is crucial. If you are mailing it out, remember the post will take at least a day and a release to a trade paper or magazine sent on Friday will not be seen until Monday morning. Faxing is quick and effective (not for photography). Email is also good, however you cannot always rely on technology and the fact that someone will check their emails on a regular basis. It is useful to give the recipients a call to make sure they have actually received it.

Remember that editors receive hundreds, even thousands, of press releases. The trick is to make yours Reader Friendly. The main points have to be easy to identify. The attention of the reader (editor) must be caught and held quickly. All early questions must be answered and enough appropriate detail given.

Too much information in the first instance is wrong. The editor does not have the time to read it, take it in and act on it at that moment. There are two main functions of a press release;

(1) To impart information about your company and its products.

(2) To create interest and open the door for the editor to request further information for a bigger story.

The release must be news worthy according to the type of media you are sending it to. For example if you are sending the release to tabloids, they will be influenced by the entertainment and novelty value of the story and if you sending it to a quality paper it must excite the intellect and imagination.

Every form of communication from your company should be viewed as marketing. You are selling your companys products or you are selling image. Image does not just happen. You make it happen by everything you do.

What image do you want to give the market; (a) Positive, or (b) Negative?


Consider the following two pieces of news. The first is correct English but it is not written in journalistic style and would stand little chance of being published. The second is an example of how to convey the same message in magazine style.


MBEL made pre-tax profits of MXX million last year. The CEO of MBEL Mr Duncan Cox, told shareholders at the Companys annual general meeting, which was held at the groups headquarters in Crawley, UK, that much of the profit was due to new working practices which had been agreed by the employees. He thanked the employees for their support and said that if they had not agreed to the new working practices MBEL would have made a loss. The profits are the largest recorded by MBEL.


MBEL has reported a record a profit of more than MXX million and its all thanks to the workplace. Speaking at the Companys AGM, president Mr Markku Kangas, said employees willingness to accept new working practices had turned a potential loss into the Companys biggest ever profit.

– ENDS –

Jane Herbert has nearly 20 years experience in public relations and is managing director of PR agency Pilotmax

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How to Write a Press Release}