What makes a good press release?

05/10/2016

A busy news desk will receive dozens of press releases every day. Only those which are written and laid out in the right way are likely to avoid falling victim to the ‘delete’ button.

Here’s a checklist of things to be considered when producing a release:

  1. Are you sure your story will be of interest? If not, don’t bother. You don’t want to gain a reputation as a time waster.
  2. Grab attention immediately and answer the “so what?” question. The headline and first line of the release must be interesting enough for the journalist to want to read further.
  3. A smart release takes account of media deadlines. A weekly paper which comes out on a Friday, for instance, will probably not add copy beyond the previous Tuesday. If you want to promote a forthcoming event, give at least a week’s notice – and maybe follow it up with a phone call reminder nearer the time.
  4. Assume zero knowledge. Useful background presented as bullet points below the main body of the release is a handy way of providing context.
  5. It should be possible to scan read a release. Use simple language (no jargon or mysterious acronyms) and write in sentences of no more than 25 words. To avoid dense text, use 1.5 line spacing and have only one or two sentences per paragraph.
  6. Provide key facts. This includes the who, what, when, where, why – plus contact details for any news desk with a follow-up inquiry or interview request.
  7. Complete the package. If possible, provide a good quality photograph for use in print and online. Also include at least one attributable quote.
  8. Be concise. Ideally a release should be on one side of A4, and definitely no more than two.

Following these rules does increase the chances of success, but there is never a guarantee. PR is not an exact science!