Tips for Writing an Effective News Release

Is your news “newsworthy?” The purpose of a press release is to inform the world of your news item. Do not use your press release to try and make a sale. A good press release answers all of the “W” questions (who, what, where, when and why), providing the media with useful information about your organization, product, service or event. If your press release reads like an advertisement, rewrite it.

Remember the Five W’s and the H

Editors are inundated daily with press releases. Catch the editor’s attention right away. They almost always edit news releases or use them as springboards for stories. Editors cut material from the bottom up, so make your copy stand out.   Your goal is to communicate your event using every day language, so avoid overusing technical jargon and acronyms.  Leave the technical details for a phone call or a follow-up email. Once an editor contacts you, you will be allowed to give an interview and go into more depth on your event.

Once you have decided on the message, you will get an editor’s attention quickly if you include the following information in the first paragraph. Answer these questions:

  • Who is the story about?
  • What is happening?
  • When will the event take place?
  • Where is it?
  • Why am I reading about this now?
  • How do I get more information?

Stick to the facts. Tell the truth. Avoid fluff, embellishments and exaggerations. If you feel that your press release contains embellishments, perhaps it would be a good idea to set your press release aside until you have more exciting news to share. Journalists are naturally skeptical. If your story sounds too good to be true, you are probably hurting your own credibility. Even if it is true, you may want to tone it down a bit.

Pick an angle. Try to make your press release timely. Tie your news to current events or social issues if possible. Make sure that your story has a good news hook.

Use active, not passive, voice. Verbs in the active voice bring your press release to life. Rather than writing “entered into a partnership” use “partnered” instead. Do not be afraid to use strong verbs as well. For example, “The committee exhibited severe hostility over the incident.” reads better if changed to “The committee was enraged over the incident.” Writing in this manner, helps guarantee that your press release will be read.


Here are some basic guidelines:

  • Center “News Release” at the top of the page, just below the logo, and put it in bold type. The contact information should appear at the top, with FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE or RELEASE BY and the current date on the left, and the contact name, phone number, FAX number, and e-mail address on the right. Insert two blank lines before beginning the headline.
  • Prepare an action headline. Center it and put it in bold type. Insert two more blank lines. Before beginning the body of the release, make the text flush left and indent paragraphs.
  • Put the dateline first—city and state, with appropriate abbreviations. The Associated Press Stylebook is the standard manual for newspaper reporters, copy editors, and section editors. It is helpful to adopt their style, and it costs less than $20 at professional bookstores and well-stocked independent and chain bookstores.
  • After the dateline, include the lead paragraph, and then develop the release in a logical sequence. Put the most important facts first, and gradually put information of lesser importance in succeeding paragraphs, in case it is cut. Before the end of the first page, center the word -MORE-. Continue with the second page, if necessary, and include a page number. A news release should be no longer than two pages.
  • You may want to say whether photos or interviews are available. Put this information in all caps, and use phrases like PHOTOGRAPHS AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST or INTERVIEWS WITH [NAME OF PERSON] ARE BEING SCHEDULED NOW.
  • At the end of the release, type -30- or ###, and center it.  Any information after    -30- or #### will not be published.

Economics of words. Use only enough words to tell your story. Avoid using unnecessary adjectives, flowery language, or redundant expressions such as “added bonus” or “first time ever”. If you can tell your story with fewer words, do it. Wordiness distracts from your story. Keep it concise. Make each word count.

Beware of jargon. While a limited amount of jargon will be required if your goal is to optimize your news release for online search engines, the best way to communicate your news is to speak plainly, using ordinary language. Jargon is language specific to certain professions or groups and is not appropriate for general readership. Avoid such terms as “capacity planning techniques” “extrapolate” and “prioritized evaluative procedures.”

Avoid the hype. The exclamation point (!) is your enemy. There is no better way to destroy your credibility than to include a bunch of hype. If you must use an exclamation point, use one. Never do this!!!!!!!!!!!!

Get Permission. Companies are very protective about their reputation. Be sure that you have written permission before including information or quotes from employees or affiliates of other companies or organizations. Any dispute resolution will favor the other company, meaning that your press release may get pulled.

Sources and


July 9, 2010. Topic of the Week. Leave a comment.

Chapter 13 Notes

New Technologies in Public Relations

  • Computer software such as Spin Control and Vocus are used in PR to manage media relations process.
  • Primary uses of the internet by PR professionals
    • E-mail distribution
    • Web sites
    • Blogs, Moblogs, and Vlogs
    • RSS- Really Simple Syndication
    • Podcasting
    • Brochureware
    • PR management tools
      • Desktop publishing
      • Mailing lists
      • Online conferences
      • Graphics, Design and Photography
      • Facsimile Transmission

June 25, 2010. Chapter Notes. Leave a comment.

Chapter 10 Notes

Conflict Management: Dealing with Issues, Risks and Crisis

  • Pure advocacy
    • Hard nose source of completely disagreeing or refuting the arguments, claims, or threats of a competitor or a group concerned about an issue.
    • Pure accommodation
      • Organization agrees with its critics, changes its policies, makes restitution and even makes a full public apology.
      • Conflict management cycle
        • Proactive phase- activities and thought processes that can prevent a conflict from arising or from getting out of hand.
  1. First step environmental scanning
  2. Issues tracking
  3. Issues management occurs
  4. Crisis plan
  • Strategic phase- through risk communication, dangers or threats to people or organizations is conveyed to forestall personal injury, health problems and environmental damage.
  • Reactive phase- once the issue or imminent conflict reaches a critical level of impact on the organization the PR professional must react to events in the external communication environment as they unfold.
  • Recovery phase- reputation management includes systematic research to learn the state of the organization’s reputation and then take steps to improve it.
  • Issues management is a proactive and systematic approach
  1. Predict problems
  2. Anticipate threats
  3. Minimize surprise
  4. Resolve issues
  5. Prevent crisis
  • 50 percent admitted that they did not have a crisis management plan.

June 25, 2010. Chapter Notes. Leave a comment.

Chapter 9 Notes

Public Opinion and Persuasion

  • Public opinion is elusive and extremely difficult to measure.
  • Types of leaders
    • Formal opinion leaders: hold positions such as elected officials, presidents of companies or heads of membership groups. Also called power leaders
    • Informal opinion leaders: those who have clout with peers because of some special characteristic. Role models who are admired and emulate or opinion leaders who can exert peer pressure on others. Highly informed, articulate and credible on particular issues.
    • 10 to 12 percent of the general public are opinion leaders.
    • Mass media means that information from a PR source can be efficiently and rapidly disseminated to literally millions of people.
    • Wayne Wanta has explored second level agenda setting effects, finding evidence that the media not only set an agenda but also convey a set of attributes about the subject of the news.
    • Mass media effects also are increased when people cannot verify information through personal experience or knowledge. Particularly in crisis situations
    • Framing theory
      • Impacts public understanding and consequently policy information
      • Conflict theory
        • Generate or promote conflict or controversy to gain positive position in the marketplace of ideas.
        • Persuasion is used to
  1. Change or neutralize hostile opinion
  2. Crystallize latent opinions and positive attitudes
  3. Conserve favorable opinions
  • Audience analysis
    • Psychographics- this method attempts to classify people by lifestyle, attitudes, and beliefs.
    • The most persuasive messages are direct, simply expressed and contain only on primary idea.

June 25, 2010. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Chapter 8 Notes


  • Evaluation is the measurement of results against established objectives set during the planning process.
  • PR budget devoted to measurement which is close to 5 percent but by 2010 will increase to 10 percent.
  • The most widely used methods for evaluating public relations efforts are
    • Measurement of production
    • Message exposure
    • Audience awareness
    • Audience attitudes
    • Audience action
    • Advertising Equivalency
  • Calculate the value of message exposure by converting stories into regular news columns or on the air into equivalent advertising cost.
  • Computer software and databases can analyze the content of media placements by such variables as market penetration, type of publication, tone of coverage, sources quoted, and mention of key copy points.
  • Benchmark coverage before and after a campaign to determine whether organizations publicity efforts paid off in terms of placement and mention of key messages.
  • Cost effectiveness is calculated by taking the cost of the publicity program and dividing it by the total media impressions.
  • Day-after recall participants are asked to view a specific television program or read a particular news story and the next day they are interviewed to see what key messages are recalled.
  • Baseline study is a measurement of audience attitudes and options before, during and after a PR campaign.
  • The entire communication activity of an organization should be evaluated at least once a year to make sure that every primary and secondary public receiving appropriate message.
  • Split message is common in direct mail campaigns.
    • Two or three different appeals may be prepared by a charitable organization and sent to different audiences. The response rate is then monitored to learn what messages and graphics seemed to be the most effective.
  • Readership interest surveys
    • Get feedback about the types of stories employees are most interested in reading.

June 24, 2010. Chapter Notes, Uncategorized. Leave a comment.


 For week four, I viewed an interview with Martin Waxman who owns his own PR agency in Toronto, Canada. He has based his agency on three pillars including: simplicity, energy and integrity. At the beginning of opening his agency he described media relations at being at the core of the agency but as time has continued social relations has moved to the forefront. Along with running his PR agency, he also runs a podcast that has an episode every week. Waxman felt that having a podcast is more personal to produce because you don’t have the same time to think about what you r going to say. You say what you’re thinking a d you can’t turn around and edit it like you can in a blog. The most he has to prepare himself for a podcast is a 45 minute talk session before filming about the things that they are going to discuss on the show. Waxman stresses the importance of blogging, podcast and Twitter to stay connected in the social media world. The most important thing that I learned from the interview was what he looks for in hiring new people. It’s important to have the basic and traditional skills that come with PR. I focus so much time and energy on what is new in social media and I forget to know the beginnings and where everything started. Also learning the importance of participating in blogs, podcast and Twitter, of my own and following up on people who are prominent in the industry. Know the important people of the business and what they are saying and what the comments are to the information that they are putting out. I want to learn about what skills are needed in the social media industry. I want to hear about how he started in the PR industry and the experiences he had. I also would like to learn more about his agency and what is involved in running your own PR business.

June 24, 2010. Topic of the Week, Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Chapter 7 Notes


  • Goal is to inform, persuade, motivate or achieve mutual understanding.
  • Five Communication Elements
  1. It has a sender/source  (encoder)
  2. A message
  3. A channel
  4. A receiver (decoder)
  5. Feedback from the receiver to the sender
  • The most effective two way communication is two people having a face-to –face conversation.
  • Media uses and gratification theory
    • The communication process is interactive
    • The communicator wants to inform and even persuade
    • The recipient wants to be entertained, informed, or alerted to opportunities that can fulfill individual needs.
    • Clarity and simplicity of messages are enhanced by the use of symbols, acronyms, and slogans.
    • Jargon interferes with the message and impedes the receiver’s ability to understand it.
    • Clichés and hype words can seriously undermine the credibility of the message.
    • Sleeper effect people may retain the information and eventually separate the source from the opinion.
    • Key points should be mentioned at the beginning and then summarized at the end.
    • Entropy which means that messages continually lose information as media channels and people process the information and pass it on to others.
    • Five stages of the adoption process
  1. Awareness
  2. Interest
  3. Evaluation
  4. Trial
  5. Adoption
  • Not necessary to go through all five stages
  • How decisions are influenced
    • Awareness stage: mass media vehicles such as advertising, short news articles, feature stories, radio and television
    • Interest stage: detailed brochures, specialized publications, small group seminars, web sites, and meetings to provide details.
    • Evaluation, Trial, and Adoption stages: personal experience, group norms and options of family and friends become more influential than mass media.
    • 72 of consumers are influenced by their own experience and another 56 percent by friends and family.
    • 75 percent of word of mouth communication occurs offline and in person.

June 24, 2010. Chapter Notes, Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Chapter 6 Notes

Program Planning

  • Eight basic elements
    • Situation
    • Objectives
    • Audience
    • Strategy
    • Tactics
    • Calendar/ Timetable
    • Budget
    • Evaluation
    • Objectives
      • Informational objectives: expose audiences to information and to increase awareness of an issue an even or a product.
      • Motivational: changing attitudes and influence behavior
      • Bottom line oriented and are based on clearly measurable results that can be quantified
      • PR programs should be directed toward a specific and defined audience or publics.
      • A strategy provides guidelines and key message themes for the overall program and a rationale for the actions and program components that are planned.
      • Program planning should take into account the environment context of the situation and the time when key messages are most meaningful.
      • Concentrate the most effort at the beginning of the campaign when a number of tactics are implemented.
      • Gantt chart is a column matrix that has two sides. Left side has a vertical list of activities that must be accomplished and the top has a horizontal line of days, weeks or months.
      • It is not unusual for 70 percent to be salaries and administrative fees in a budget.

June 24, 2010. Chapter Notes, Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Chapter 5 Notes


  • Public relations professional use research to:
    • To achieve credibility with management
    • To define audiences and segment publics
    • To formulate strategy
    • To test messages
    • To help management keep in touch
    • To prevent crisis
    • To monitor the competition
    • To sway public opinion  
    • To generate publicity
    • To measure success
    • Primary research new and original information is generated through research design that is directed to answer a specific question. Example: in dept interviews, focus groups, surveys and polls.
    • Archival research in an organizations files to reference books, computer databases and online research
      • The success of the product or service in the past
      • Analysis of what geographical areas provide the most sales
      • A profile of a typical customer who buys the product or uses the service.
      • Common reference services: Statistical Abstract of the United Sates (census info), American Demographics ( population shifts and lifestyle), Simmon’s Media and Markets ( survey of households on product usage by brand and exposure to various media)
      • A lot of PR research is qualitative which is good for probing attitudes and perceptions of messages and testing messages.
      • Content analysis is the systematic and objective counting or categorizing of information.
        • Measure the amount of media coverage and the content of the coverage
        • 250 to 500 people will give an accurate data with 5 or 6 percent variance that will help to determine public attitudes and opinions.
        • Questionnaire Construction
          • Highly charged words elicit an emotional reaction from the respondent.

          Responses to surveys questions are influenced by events

          Give a range of possible answers

        • The major disadvantage of telephone surveys is the difficulty in getting access to numbers.
        • Mail questionnaires reach a large geographical audience and is less expensive
        • Personal interviews are the most expensive but can generate a lot of information.


June 24, 2010. Chapter Notes, Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Chapter 4 Notes

Public Relations Department and Firms

  • George Westinghouse reportedly created the first corporate public relations department in 1889 when he hired two men to publicize his pet project, alternating current (AC) electricity.
  • Large complex organizations have a greater tendency then small firms to include PR in the policy making process.
  • Small scale organizations
    • Few public pressures and little governmental regulatory interest
    • Traditional organizations have little to no input into management decisions and policy formation.
  • A seat at the management table should be the goal of PR practitioners.
  • Influence of the company is based on four factors
    • Perception of value by top management
    • Practitioners taking on the managerial role
    • Reporting to the CEO
    • Years of professional experience
    • In large corporations corporate communications or communications outnumber the term public relations.
  • Public relations is a staff function
  • Levels of influence
    • Lowest level advisory has to need to make recommendations or request them, often not effective.
    • Compulsory-advisory position- line managers have to at least listen to the appropriate staff experts before deciding a strategy.
    • Concurring advisory- helps to approve copies and layouts
    • Command authority- has the right to make changes with or without the consent of PR.
  • Public Relations firms
    • Found in every industrialized nation and most of the developing world
    • Gives counsel and performs tactical services to carry out an agreed on program.
    • Internet has fueled the global reach of PR firms.
  • Request for Proposal
    • A firm is invited to make a presentation regarding their capabilities and express their ideas about what program they would create to address the potential client’s particular needs.
  • Advantages of PR Firms
    • Objectivity
    • A variety of skills and expertise
    • Extensive resources
    • International jobs
    • Offices throughout the country
    • Special problem solving skills
    • Credibility
  • Disadvantages
    • Superficial grasp of clients unique problems
    • Lack of full time commitment
    • Need for prolong briefing period
    • Resentment by internal staff
    • Need for strong direction by top management
    • Need for full information and confidence
    • Cost
  • Fees and charges
    • Basic hourly fee plus out of pocket expenses
    • Retainer fee
    • Fixed project fee
    • Pay for placement

June 21, 2010. Chapter Notes, Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

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