Writing a great news release.

When you write a news release, the object of the exercise is to get it published - whether that's in one specific target title, or across dozens of channels and outlets. A great news release is one that gets published, not one that wins literary awards or demonstrates your mastery of the idiom.

Writing that great news release is easy, all you need to do is:

  1. Write a crisp title.
  2. Write a punchy opening paragraph.
  3. Write at least one quote.
  4. Attach some images.
  5. Drop in some boilerplate.
  6. Send it.

Firstly define your key message – what do you want this news release to say about your company? Clearly, it helps if your news points towards this message!

Then assemble some high-quality photographs of people or related objects/places. Avoid composites, mosaics, or company graphics – these tend to get rejected. Pictures need to sell the story and must be meaningful in some way to a reader of the story. Provide captions with pictures wherever possible.

Start the actual release at the top with a crisp, interesting title. Avoid puns, alliteration and specious links to the news. People like me have been doing it since Caxton, and we never learn – don’t make the same mistake!

Titles are crucial for the success of a web news story, so spend some time getting it right. Saying titles aloud is often a good way of telling whether they work or not.

Get as much into your opening sentence and paragraph as possible. This requires careful construction – you can get away with quite long sentences, but if you overdo it the clarity of your message crumbles. Write it out once, and then read it aloud. If you need to stop and take a breath mid-sentence or stumble over the words, then it probably needs more work.

Your second paragraph should provide some more details about everything you’ve claimed above. This is where you relate the facts and figures as evidence, proving beyond doubt your story is true.

Then you need to put a persuasive quote in, from the most senior spokesperson involved. This might be your client. The quote should focus on reinforcing the key message and first paragraph. Again, read this aloud, and refine it, until it sounds natural.

You can put a further quote in, if there are other stakeholders involved, or provide some further background to the news.

Finally, add the dreaded “editors’ notes”. This divides people, but a short, factual biography of your company, appended to every press release, can save an editor having to choose between making a call and trying to find out how long you’ve been in business, or picking a different news release that will slot in nicely.

A few closing tips:

  • Run everything through Grammarly.
  • Don’t capitalise job titles.
  • Watch your apostrophes, especially it’s and its, and don't mix up plurals and possessives!
  • Always get someone else to check your draft before you send it out.
  • Always send it in plain text, with a personalised covering email, and images attached rather than inline. This makes it as easy as possible for the editors to use your release.

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