Guide to Writing A Press Release
A press release is a tool for releasing facts and about your campaign, release of a report, or some issue that is newsworthy. It should convey a few straightforward ideas, staying on the message of your central campaign, but that make up truly new information the public should be informed of. If it is done right, the reporter can use the release directly to save time and work, and your message will be unaltered.
- Limit your release to one or two pages.
- Use a headline to highlight the message and attract attention.
- Use the inverted pyramid style. Get to the point and then elaborate on it, with increasingly less important (but nevertheless essential) details in the paragraphs that follow.
- Keep it simple, clear and direct. That's a lot easier said than done, but it can be done if you put yourself in the place of the reader.
- Try to engage your reader from the start with a catchy lead paragraph.
- Be sure of your facts. Reporters and editorial writers must be able to depend on you for accurate information.
- If you can do so legitimately, convey a sense of urgency without being histrionic, perhaps through a quote from the head of your organization.
- Go easy on quotes, however, being sure those that you do use sound like something a real person would say. Always check with quoted person first. Some people prefer to have a draft quote that they can "okay"; others want to give their own quote.
- Never use a long word when a short one will do, same with sentences. When you use a long sentence, follow it with a short, declarative one. Keep paragraphs short.
- Avoid jargon of any kind, especially legal and computer jargon. Be sparing in the use of acronyms, and when you do use one, be sure it appears the first time parenthetically after the full name of whatever it represents.
- Include visual aids when you can. A photograph, graphic or other illustration can help convey your message and add interest to your release.
- Have it reviewed, preferably by someone outside your organization, to be sure it is professional, interesting, understandable and free of typographical errors.
The basic format for a press release can be found in the box below. If you remove the brackets and all that is inside of them, replacing them with the appropriate information, you will have an acceptable press release.
- If your release spans multiple pages, number them. Put the phrase "-more-" at the bottom of every page but the last.
Don’t exceed 2 pages.
- Try to include the contact information for as many people as you can. If reporters or papers have questions about your article, you want to be sure someone is available to answer them. Use phone numbers and email addresses.
A press release template is also available as a Word document [DOC, 20kb]
See the accompanying sample releases for format. The press release should be faxed or emailed to all outlets simultaneously or as nearly so as possible. When emailing, always put press release in body of email even if you are sending it as an attachment. Follow up by phone the same day, if at all possible, to see if it was received (and noticed) and to give additional information if needed.
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