I’m going to switch things up a little from my previous blog posts (The Freelance Life, parts 1 & 2) and – throughout the rest of the year – share some tips on how to write different types of documents. I hope it will help!
As most of you are aware, getting good press for your event, product launch, or general good news can be tough. Readers are inundated with news (both good and bad), social media is the go-to source for many people, and news organizations are sometimes overwhelmed.
Even though social media has become the standard for receiving (as well as generating) news, it’s still important to know how to write a good ‘ol fashioned press release for traditional media outlets.
What is a Press Release?
A press release is an announcement to the media about an event. The event could be anything: a grand opening of a store, a new product launch, a human interest story, etc. Most organizations, whether large or small, use press releases to share news with the media. Hopefully, the release will culminate in a positive story in the targeted media.
I’ve written dozens of press releases throughout my career: in politics, the private sector, and in government. Though I’m not a classically trained journalist, I’ve learned what generally works when writing a release and how best to get press (which is not guaranteed, more on that below).
Journalists are taught many things about structuring a story. Two of them will serve you well while drafting your own release:
1. Always include Who, What, Where, How, Why, and When elements
2. Write in the Inverted Pyramid style
If journalists are comfortable using these elements when they write a story, wouldn’t it be prudent to use these same elements in your release?
The first element is pretty self-explanatory. In your release you should include the basic facts about your event. Who is it for? What is it about? Where is it being held (or where did it happen)? How is it going to work? Why is it important? When did it happen (or when will it happen)? Including the basic facts of the event will show the media that you are thorough in your approach and you understand that they need as much information as possible.
You want to spark interest in your story, so if you forget to include the “Why” for example, the journalist is going to file your release in the circular bin (ouch).
The second element is one you’ll find in most media stories (on- and offline). The Inverted Pyramid simply means that the main facts are in the first sections of the article – generally in the first two paragraphs. That way, if the reader decides to just skim the article then move on, they’ll get the gist of the entire piece. It also serves as a “hook” to entice the reader to continue reading.
Once you’ve written your release with those two elements, it’s important to include at least one quote from a stakeholder that “teases” the event. Only include a quote that you are comfortable with seeing in the targeted media. Remember, some media outlets will take your entire release and post/print it (usually smaller papers/websites). If you don’t want to read something in the paper or web, DON’T WRITE IT.
• Just sending a release to your targeted media outlet won’t guarantee coverage of your event. You have a build a relationship with the media contact and follow up after you’ve sent it.
• Make sure to include your full contact information at the top of the release.
• Include a catchy and informative headline
• Keep the release to no more than 2 pages
• At the end of the release use a “#” symbol to indicate the end of the useable content.
• Include a statement about your organization after the “#” symbol so the media can learn more about your mission.
I hope these tips will be helpful as you draft your press release. If you’re still unsure, drop me a line in the comment section or visit my website – cjobudho.weebly.com – for a free consultation about all of your writing and editing needs.
Chris Obudho has over 25 years of writing, marketing, and public communications experience he learned in the public and private sectors. As a technical & marketing writer/editor, he can help you tell the right technical story through actionable content, precise editing, and passionate communications.