I’m a journalist with experience in print, television, and digital… and I have no shame in admitting my belief in press releases. I think a well-written release is the most effective way to communicate specific details of a topic, issue, event, etc. to the community, newsroom, or publication.
However, let’s be clear: A press release is different than well-written press release.
How your release is written can determine if it gets media attention.
I’m here to help.
1. Understand the basics of journalism.
This is the most important point of this post. I could go on and on about this topic, but I’ll keep it simple. The writer should explain the “who, what, where, when, why, and how” of the announcement/event/whatever in the press release. Too often, I’ll receive a release which is missing pertinent information. Cover your bases and answer the “who, what, where, when, why, and how.”
2. Keep it brief.
Your press release shouldn’t be any longer than a page. You can ensure this by following what I like to call the 3Cs of news writing. Keep your press release clear, concise, and crisp. A reporter can look at a release and know within the first sentence if it is worth their time.
3. Use proper grammar and proofread.
Nothing will annoy a media outlet more than receiving a press release with poor grammar, spelling, and sentence structure. If you want someone to take your release seriously, you need to take it seriously and present it professionally.
4. Include quotes.
Interview someone knowledgeable about the topic and include their quotes throughout the release. Using real quotes from real people will allow your release a feeling of authenticity. Adding this type of element will increase your chance of being published because it has more content aside from just paragraphs of text.
5. Add a call to action.
Decide what action you want followed by the receiver of the release. Do you want a journalist to interview someone from your organization/company about a new and exciting achievement? Do you want people to know about and attend your event? Do you want community members to donate money toward your cause? Tell them.
6. Offer interview opportunities.
Nothing is worse for a reporter than having someone pitch them a great story idea via press release, yet refuse to do an interview. In your press release, include the contact information of someone who is readily available and prepared to do an interview. Make sure this person is flexible and respectful of a reporter who is likely working on a deadline.
7. Send the release via email.
The best way (really, the only acceptable way) to deliver a press release is through email. Attach the release in PDF form and also put the text of the release in the body of the email. Locate the newsroom or publication’s preferred email and send it. If you happen to know individual reporters or anchors at a news station or newspaper, send it to them too.
8. Follow up.
If you don’t hear back from the news outlet about your release, you can follow up. Just make sure you do so professionally and respectfully. Call a newsroom (after 10am), request to speak with the assignment desk manager, and ask if they got the release. If they did, offer to answer any questions they have about the topic and if you can schedule an interview. If they didn’t, ask for their email again and resend it.
9. Be considerate.
Understand that your release may not get the attention that you believe it deserves. News outlets do not guarantee coverage. For various reasons, assignment desks are particular in what they choose to cover. If the topic of your release doesn’t fit their scope, that’s okay.
I can’t believe I have to even mention this, but please don’t use shaming tactics or get angry over their decision. Be respectful and try again in the future with another release and topic.
Feel free to leave a comment if you have a question!
I'm happy to answer to the best of my ability!
Maria Satira is a full-time journalist and part-time blogger, freelance writer, and content creator. She loves sarcasm, rescue dogs, and red wine. She despises bland food, poor grammar, and litterbugs.