How to write press releases
You own your own business, and you want more publicity. You’d love to have a news reporter come visit and write about you, but the call to the newspaper didn’t yield much response.
So maybe it’s time to write your own press release alerting reporters to your story. Great idea! But first….
Ask yourself —is it REALLY news? Hiring a new employee or adding a line of kids’ socks isn’t. Hiring the governor’s son or being the only store in town selling a new and high-demand product might be. Does the honest answer feel like a “no”? Then you probably have to rely on other avenues for now.
But if the answer is “yes,” let’s get it in print!
Be forewarned: submitted (unsolicited) stories that are poorly written, unclear or meandering don’t stand much of a chance. Newspaper folks are usually too busy to fool with other people’s bad writing.
So, if you think you can write, let’s move on. It’s true: You need to consider the old 5 Ws of journalism-Who? What ? When? Where? Why? These bits of crucial information should show up in your lede—the intro line to your press release. And there are also style rules you must follow. They’re not terribly difficult, but they are necessary. Let’s talk about it as we read my pretend release below.
“The Headbangers’ Society finished building their new wall at the north end of City Park last Friday, and will provide open access 3–6 p.m. daily for citizens who need a good, solid surface for head smacking. (WHO. WHAT. WHERE. WHEN.WHY. ALL AT ONCE AND CONCISE. HOORAY! And note how the time is written. That’s the correct way.)
The group first considered a cement wall, but ended up constructing a wall of stout oak posts and boards, a construction the Society determined was durable and likely to cause less permanent damage to users. The structure stands seven feet tall and ten feet long. (This paragraph explains in detail what the story is about. Not that numbers less than 11 are written out as words in the sentence. If you start a sentence with a number, always write it out.)
The Society will dedicate the wall in a short ceremony March 5. As part of the event, the entire membership of the group – 34 frustrated people – will bang their heads into the wall simultaneously. (Note the proper way to write dates. You can use dashes for emphasis—instead of commas--if you don’t overdo.)
The public is invited to join in a second run at the wall immediately thereafter. EMTs will be on hand. The Headbangers Society began as a 30-member group of citizens who realized the recently elected City Council was not going to do anything of value during their four-year term, said Charley Hurt, president of Headbangers. (Adds a little color and detail to the story, and more “why”.)
“We’re not a political organization,” he added, “But we feel a great deal of frustration and need an outlet. Writing letters to the editor just doesn’t cut it.” (Note “added.”Proper newspaper use –said, noted, pointed out, added. Always past tense. NEVER use “shared,”“ declared,” or “ enthused.” You can use “explained” rarely, if it’s appropriate.)
Hurt said the organization’s membership now includes the Mayor and his administrative assistant, as well as more than 75 local business owners, many of whom have complained about Council’s lack of interest in business matters.
“We didn’t invite them,” Hurt noted. “They just showed up on their own and demanded membership. At first we said no – to test them, you understand. They just banged their heads on the walls of our meeting room, and left some pretty bad dents in the sheetrock. So we knew they would be serious members, and we agreed.” (Get a good, useful quote from someone…an employee, a customer, your banker.)
Hurt said citizens may lean against the wall any time other than the designated headbanging hours, but stressed that nailing notices to the wall is forbidden, as someone could put an eye out.
The Society can be reached at 555-111-1234 or email@example.com. (Most papers want contact info.)
(This symbol is called “thirty.” Use it, and only one of it.)
This story would e-mailed to the paper as an attachment, double-spaced. Be sure you add your name and phone number. It’s best to send the story to the proper editor or reporter: if you are looking for placement on the business page, find that contact by either calling the newspaper’s main number, or check their online paper to see if contacts are listed. It’s okay to call a day or two after submission to see if the story’s been received and if they will need more information.
Questions? Call or email us - I’d be happy to answer them. If you’d like me to write a press release for you, give Red Kite a holler.