Press releases are an important tool in the PR kit and people often underestimate how much work goes into getting them right.

This short intro provides tips on writing and issuing a good press release.

Write your release for the right reason

Before you start, check why you’re writing the press release. Make sure it is part of your communications strategy; whether it is proactive or reactive, the release should support your organisation’s overall aims and values. Also, consider whether a release is really the most appropriate format for this opportunity – is it ‘news’? Would a tailored feature pitch, or an opinion piece, be more suitable?

Include quotes

Quotes from key spokespeople – senior staff, trustees or service users – can give life to a press release. But make sure they say something surprising or impactful and, above all, relevant, or leave them out. If you do include them, be sure that the person quoted is willing to talk to the media and that they will be available when the press release is issued. You can include quotes from people who don’t want to be interviewed if it is a sensitive issue or their identity needs to be protected.

Use images

Adding images to your press release can help to engage journalists, especially if you have a strong image that conveys the essence of the story. Make sure you include a low resolution version but point out that high resolution versions are available. Emails that contain large files might not make it into someone’s inbox or may take too long to load.

Tailor your release to your target media

Do your homework before you send out your press release. Read the publications and listen to and watch the broadcast channels you want to target so that you know what sort of material they carry, who their audience is and how they present their information. You may need to write more than one version of your release.

Also, think carefully about your email subject line. You only have a few words with which to grab a journalist’s attention so make them count.

Include a tweet

Summarise your story in a tweet and include it in your press release. A journalist is more likely to share your story on social media if the content has been written for them. You might also want to include a NIB (news in brief) paragraph so that your story can be used quickly and easily.

Include your contact details

These are crucial. Make sure you include at least one telephone number and email address at the top and bottom of your release, including a number you can be reached on when the release goes out. Never send a press release out when the contacts listed are on holiday or in an all-day meeting.

Keep it to one page

You should be able to tell your story in one page of A4. A second page can be used to include your tweet, NIB and your notes to editors. Keep these notes brief. You only need the essential information about your organisation, enough to give journalists context and a source of further information if they want to know more, such as a web address.

Send the release as plain text in an email

You may have spent time creating beautiful graphics or sourcing high resolution images, all of which could be useful once you’ve secured interest in your story. But at this initial stage it’s a good idea to stick to plain text for your emails and avoid attachments. Spam filters or space limits may well prevent your message getting through. Journalists often want to be able to copy and paste text from an email or easily forward it to others in their team, without worrying about file sizes.

If there are particular points you’d like to draw an individual’s attention to, because of their specialist area or some previous contact you’ve had with them, add an introductory paragraph at the top of your message, before your press release title. However, keep these additions to a minimum and suggest they contact you to discuss things further.

Check it and check it again

As well as a thorough proof-read to check spelling and grammar, make sure everything makes sense and that you’ve sold your story as well as you possibly can. It might help to make a cup of tea and come back and look at it with fresh eyes.

Given that journalists receive so many releases every day, it’s not enough to just hit send and wait. If you’re serious about securing coverage, make time to follow up on the phone, at least with your priority target media. There’s a good chance they’ll miss your story if you don’t, even though it might be right up their street.

Writing a press release

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