12 top tips on how to write a press release that generates headlines

In the modern digital world the humble press release may seem a bit old-school, but don’t be fooled a well written release is still a highly effective way of generating headlines and creating content.

By following these top tips you can make sure you’re press releases stand out from the crowd and get the attention of journalists and bloggers.

Before you write and issue anything there’s one simple question to answer: “So what?” If the subject of the release is not newsworthy then a journalist will not want to cover it.

Journalists are interested in news about people – appointments, promotions and the like. They also write about new product developments, new services or market trends and the results of research. Company results, investments, mergers and acquisitions also make the headlines.  So if your news is about one of these subjects it probably passes the ‘So what?’ test.

Now you can start drafting your release making sure you cover the six questions every news story of release must answer:

  • 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?

1. Keep it short and sweet

Two pages is the maximum length for a release because journalists get hundreds of press releases a day so don’t have the time (or inclination) to work their way through page after page of prose.

2. Date it

Put the date you issue the release at the top of the page so that a journalist knows what they are reading is new news. No date and they’ll assume it’s out of date and will spike the story.

3. Punchy headline

Use the headline to summarise the story as this is what grabs a journalist’s attention. Put it in bold at the top of the page, after the date so it’s quick and easy to read.

4. Strong introduction

Summarise the whole story in the first paragraph and keep it to no more than 30 words. If it’s not interesting journalists will stop reading.

5. Subsequent paragraphs

Following the ‘pyramid’ model, in the following paragraph or two add more detail to substantiate what you said in the introduction, but don’t pad with information simply for the sake of it.

6. Don’t use jargon

Avoid industry jargon and TLA’s (three letter acronyms) as they cause confusion. Keep the sentences short and simple.

7. Use quotes

Add quotes from people relevant to the story but make sure they strengthen the release. There’s no point in Mr Smith saying: “We are delighted to win this £1 million contract,” it’s obvious. Much better for Mr Smith to say: “This contract will enable us to continue to drive investment in new product development and secure jobs for the long-term.”

8. Spelling and grammar

Always check the copy for typos and grammatical mistakes.  Don’t just use a spell-checker, but also print it out and read through again and get a second person to read it through as it’s easy to misread your own word.

9. Photographs

Any story is more attractive to an editor if you can offer high resolution (300 dpi minimum) digital images saved in a JPEG format. It’s advisable to commission a professional photographer to take a picture, they are invariably of much higher quality than those of well-meaning enthusiasts and as a result likely to help secure better coverage. When sending your picture, make sure it’s captioned left to right giving the names and titles of the people in the shot.

10. Contacts

Include your contact information either at the top of the release or near the end. This should consist of your full name, telephone (landline and mobile), email and maybe a postal address too. Journalists often have follow-up questions so it’s important to be available. If they can’t get an answer they won’t run the story.

11. Who to target?

Spend a bit of time researching the correct media. If you don’t already know them, a quick internet search will identify the journalists and bloggers to target. It can also be worth calling key journalists to check if the story is of interest before you send it. They may say no but give you an idea for a release that will interest them in the future. Don’t bother ringing to check if a release has arrived – journalists hate it.

12. Distribution

Don’t waste your money on a stamp. Today most journalists expect to receive press releases by email.  Paste the text of your release into the body of the email. Provide a link to your photo if you have one or attach it to the email, making sure you have given it a name relevant to the release (so it doesn’t get separated from the story) and included a caption in the email.

Pelican Communications are specialists in the environmentfood and drinkoutdoor and leisure and packaging sectors. Contact us for marketing and communications expertise.