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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?

Title

  • ‘Newsy’ title providing a taster of what’s to come and engaging the potential readers.

Subtitle

  • Further elaborating on the header and providing a lead-in to the body copy.

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.