Writing a press release

Page - July 5, 2016
Guidelines for writing an AWESOME press release

Note: These guidelines are written to support you, the more you follow them the better your press release will be. With that in mind, writing isn’t everyone’s strong point and can be quite daunting, especially the first time you write one. That’s why we are here to help you, please don’t hesitate to ask or send through your draft.

10 quick tips

  • Be Accurate
  • Be Timely
  • Get straight to the point
  • The first paragraph should contain the punch. It should make the reporter or the editor want to read on. Write it like you’d tell a friend the crux of an interesting story over a beer.
  • Quote only up to  two  people in one release
  • If you are quoting someone, make sure to introduce who they are before going into their quote. The reader shouldn’t have to get to the end of a quote to find out who actually said it.
  • Intersperse quotes between paragraphs
  • Always end with a conclusion of what you want to happen or one that leaves the reader with an interesting afterthought
  • Always check grammar and spelling
  • Have at least one other person proofread or comment

The nitty gritty

Tips before you start:

  • Use left-hand justification (all paragraphs begin flush with the left-hand margin, no indents)
  • Specify clearly whether the news release is "For immediate release" or "Embargoed for release until <date, time, time zone)>" on the top line

Layout

  • Dateline "location, day-month-year" in bold text, i.e. Kaikohe, 1 January 2015
  • Title should be one short and punchy line, written lower case except for proper names, and should be written in an active not passive voice. Titles should be considerably less than 140 characters in length to allow for Tweeting with the appropriate header (i.e. News release: Napier community takes on the Council)
  • First paragraph should present the entire story, by answering the five W’s: who, what, when, where, why. It should be no more than two sentences in 26 words or less. 
  • Second and third paragraphs should address context/explanation and provide a quote by a spokesperson, including their name and short job title (this is probably you but write it in third person)
  • Subsequent paragraphs provide additional information that may include a quote from the spokesperson or a third-party validator.
  • The release ends with “- ENDS -“

More helpful tips

  • “Note to editors:” may follow for any links to publications, photos or video
  • "For more information:” must always include contact information for follow-up with a name, title, organisation (if appropriate), primary phone number, and email address.
  • (ie. Jane Doe, Media Officer, Save our bees Tauranga community, +64 2 222 222, )
  • Footnotes are strongly discouraged
  • The entire content of the release should fit on one side of a single sheet of A4/US paper
  • Accuracy is essential; make sure any claims you make  are scientifically and legally sound
  • Write as you expect a journalist would, making it easy for them to simply cut and paste your text into their story
  • Avoid jargon or figures of speech that may not be correctly interpreted internationally
  • Do not exaggerate to make a point, as it suggests your core argument is weak
  • Say what needs to be said only once
  • Quote only up to two people in one release and intersperse quotes between the paragraph
  • Create strong, compelling quotes
  • Use an affirmative and active tense using clear and simple language
  • After introducing speaker, attribute quotes to them using just their last name with no prefix title, followed with an active “says” (as opposed to “said”). Eg, “QUOTE,” Smith says.
  • Ensure each paragraph is no more than three sentences long
  • Attribute a quote to a named individual and include a short job title 

Goodluck!

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