Press release checklist
- Assess if the story has news value and if a release is appropriate.
- Research the target press and media. Review publications to get a feel for the tone and style. Identify deadlines.
- Identify the key facts – ask who, what, why, where, when, how?
- Draft a template structure for your story.
- Decide who should be quoted from your organisation and if third-party quotes would be useful.
- Check whether a photo can support the release.
What is the aim of a press release?
- Your aim is to get coverage and raise awareness among your target audiences.
- There are key elements that a journalist looks for in a story — and the human interest angle is key.
- Do you have a human interest angle, and can you show that your news has an impact on people?
- Release must be drafted along very clear guidelines designed to make it as easy as possible for journalists to use your material.
What should go into a press release?
Answer the following questions about your news:
- Who? Who are the key players — your company, anyone else involved with the product? Who does your news affect/who does it benefit?
- What? What is new?
- Why? Why is this important news — what does it provide that is different?
- Where? Where is this happening/is there a geographical angle/is the location of business relevant?
- When? What is the timing of this? Does this add significance?
How? How did this come about?
Write the answers then compile in short, punchy (no more than 25 words) sentences.
- Getting benefits of your news across is key.
- If you can capture the essence of the story in less than 50 words you’re on the right track.
- First paragraph should be max 2 sentences, each 25 words or less.
- Info needs to flow logically from the intro.
What angle should I focus on in the release?
- Most important thing in a press release is to write for your target audience.
- To do that you MUST know your target audience.
- When thinking about your target audience, consider the knowledge they have about your product/company and the language they’ll understand.
How do I structure and present the release?
Key ways to structure and present your press release are below:
Timing — for immediate release or embargo?
- Indicate at the top whether for immediate release or to be released on a given date.
- Immediate release is preferred by journalists as it requires less planning.
Give the release a title
- Just as with any written piece, it will require a title.
- Job is to grab attention and encourage the journalist to read more.
- Double spacing and wide margins
Structure and presentation?
- ‘Newsy’ title providing a taster of what’s to come and engaging the potential readers.
- Further elaborating on the header and providing a lead-in to the body copy.
- About 300 words including pieces from the quote at the bottom.
How many paragraphs?
- As few as needed to get the point across.
- Avoid waffle and keep the copy as tight as possible.
- Key information needs to be put in the first paragraph
- Test of Success: Can the story be understood from the first paragraph alone?
- Second paragraph expands on the first by providing detail
- Third paragraph often contains a quote.
- Fourth paragraph outlines final information
How to end the press release
- Signal it with the word ‘Ends’ in bold.
- Follow with ‘For further information, please contact’ and provide details.
- Provide a mobile number.
- Further information can be provided in a ‘Notes to Editor section.
- Example: background info on the company (boilerplate) or notification that photos are available.
What writing style should I use?
- Sentences that are 25 words in length, preferably fewer.
- The release should give the journalist the essence of the story.
- Get the content right and write to publication style.
- Factual tone, short and concise.