The anatomy of a press release

Written by Hayley Paterson


anatomy

So, you’ve got some great news to shout about and want new and existing customers to hear about it – but how can you get your message to the media?

A media release, or traditionally a press release, is a key PR tool to showcase exactly what you want to tell others about. The important question you must first ask yourself is… ‘Is it news?’

News is news if it is something that is not known before. But it’s not quite as simple as that.

What is news to one medium might not be so for another. A piece about an office move is hardly going to be of interest to a national outlet, but for a trade publication, it might be. Again, an item announcing the opening of a new restaurant with the creation of 10 jobs might be right for a regional radio station, but will never make the six o’clock news.

Get it right, media coverage will follow. Get it wrong, and your carefully-crafted words will be cast aside as spam, get spiked or simply disappear into the unforgiving media abyss.

LOGO

Your company logo needs to be included. Make sure it’s a hi-res logo and stands out.

REFERENCE

An easy one – it needs to say ‘Press release’, ‘News’ or ‘Media alert’ so the journalist knows what they are receiving.

DATE

This might sound simple, but it’s imperative to have a date included so you know when it’s going out and can reference during follow-up media calls. You can also set an embargoed date if you are planning ahead. Depending on your PR style too, a date should read like: Monday, 11 July 2018; Monday, 11th July 2018; 11th July 2018.

HEADLINE

Grab the readers’ attention. A well-crafted headline should go some way to explaining what the story is about or leave the journalist wanting more. If it’s more of a light-hearted story, reflect that in your headline too.

Don’t be too stuffy with your language either, simple copy works best. Little adjustments such as using ‘because’ rather than ‘due’ make things easier to read.

INTRO

This is one of the most important elements to a press release. An intro sets the tone for the journalist and explains why they must tell your story to their audience.

The infamous ‘five Ws’ of What Where, When, Why and Who should be included within the first few paragraphs of your story.

A great tip to writing a killer intro is to study newspaper style, listen to radio news broadcasts and watch TV news bulletins. You’ll soon pick-up the soundbites that work. Also, a rule of thumb for PR professionals is to always mention your client name in the intro.

Finally, always back up your claims with facts and statistics in the following paragraphs.

QUOTES

A great way of making an incredibly busy journalist’s life easier! A quote from a relevant spokesperson not only helps the journalist when filing copy, but it’s a great way of getting your key messages across.

Keep quotes simple, but effective. Make them emotive if the story lends itself to that tone. And always include the spokesperson’s full name and job title.

STYLE AND TONE

When it comes to speaking to your audience, make sure that you write in the right style for that particular medium. Stick to the facts and avoid being too ‘flowery’ with your language too – a ‘lovely’ here and a ‘superb’ there will just put people off.

If you’ve got a complex story avoid waffling sentences. Keep them short and make them simple and jargon-free so that it’s as easy to read as possible. Don’t repeat yourself either, if you’re talking about a business, use ‘firm’, ‘company’ or ‘organisation’ in following sentences.

The biggest tip here is to avoid writing puffery containing blatant advertising messages. If that happens, you might as well put the copy in the journalist’s bin yourself.

Finally, keep your sentences short – no more than 25-30 words and a maximum of two or three lines to a paragraph.

CONTACT DETAILS

The PR professional’s contact details should appear on the release, usually at the bottom, so that a journalist knows who to contact should they need more information.

Without such details, that could be the difference between arranging an exclusive page lead interview to having a nib buried somewhere in a publication. Be accessible.

BOILERPLATE OR NOTES TO EDITOR

This is another great tool to include the background of your business/client’s company, without trying to squeeze everything into the main story and losing momentum. This section can include key messages, facts and figures and social and website plugs, contact email and phone number.

VISUAL

A bit further down the line, but worth mentioning. When you’re ready to distribute your press release, always include a relevant, professional photo.

If possible, include video – whether that’s using a downloadable link or a click-through to your video channel. More media publications are calling for video content. If you have it, use it.

AND FINALLY

When it comes to compiling a press release, get your template sorted. And as you begin to plan your story, put yourself in the shoes of the reader:

  • What do I want to read about?
  • Do I have access to all of the relevant information?
  • Is there a relevant spokesperson and strong quotes?
  • Is the copy succinct and simple to read?

If so, that should make for a strong press release and plenty of media coverage in return.

Now you’ve got the basics right,
It’s important to get the timings right

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