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5 Tips for Writing a Great News Release

(This Item was Contributed by Lt. Col. Paul Cianciolo, National Capital Wing PAO)

Sept. 1, 2010 – Press releases are a tricky thing to get right. One simple mistake – like a poor headline or a mere typo – can make you lose readers, and once they’re gone, they’re not coming back. Good press releases, however, can catch the attention of reporters, resulting in news stories and more.

Here are five tips on how to make sure your press release gets noticed (in a good way):

Don’t Bury the Lead

A press release, much like your traditional newspaper story, should highlight the most important news right off the bat. Don’t try to get too creative or come up with a witty lead paragraph, because chances are if a reporter can’t tell what your press release is about, he or she will stop reading it. In other words, pick the few details that you think people absolutely, hands-down need to know about whatever it is you’re selling, and stick those at the very top. You can fill in the background and supporting details lower in the release in the order of most important to least important, just like your standard “inverted pyramid”-style news article.

Make Sure Your Headline is Strong

The headline should read like an even shorter, more summed-up version of the first few sentences. It should convey the same points in fewer words. You can also pack a few additional details into a subhead. It may seem redundant since the same information will just be rehashed in the lead of the release, but again, the goal is not to be witty or artsy here. The goal is to get a reporter to spend 60 seconds reading what you have to say.

That said, it’s probably best to match the headline of the release with the subject line of the email in which you are sending out the release (but you may have to shave off yet another word or more to make it inbox-friendly). The truth is, many press releases just get deleted right off the bat, so a good headline can mean the difference between either getting some eyeballs on your news item or having it sent straight to the email trash bin.

Don’t Leave Room for Confusion

A press release is supposed to be the gateway to a story, not the story itself, and good reporters generally won’t regurgitate press releases as news. But sometimes, depending on what the news is, a press release might just say it all, and a reporter can craft an item out of it by simply taking off the spin and relaying the details in a more newsy way. In either case, none of those details should be murky or seem to not line up or leave room for confusion or misinterpretation. As a reporter, I can’t stand getting press releases with information that is jumbled or unclear, even if I plan to make calls and ask follow-up questions.

Dot Your “i’s” and Cross Your “t’s”

It’s bad when a reporter makes a factual, spelling or grammatical error in a news story. But mistakes happen, especially when you’re on deadline. The deadline for writing a press release, however, is most likely far more generous than the amount of time reporters have to file their copy. Press releases can usually be proofread several times before they are sent out — there is no excuse for careless errors. Not the biggest deal, but it will make you look silly, considering the people you’re sending the release to are professional writers. Always have a second or third set of eyes look it over before you pull the trigger.

Personalize It

Not the release itself, but your method of delivering it. If there are a few reporters or editors in particular that you really want to score coverage from, include a personal note with the email containing the release. At the very least, it will make them feel like they are actually hearing from a human being, and it will give you a chance to make a succinct case for why you think the news would be of interest to them. At the same time, don’t stretch it. If the news actually doesn’t seem like it will be of interest to them, it can’t hurt to send the release anyway. But don’t try to force an angle that isn’t there.

Joe Pompeo, Business Insider

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Last updated: 09/14/15

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