TOW 8

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.

 Format

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 http://www.prwebdirect.com/pressreleasetips.php and http://adaanniversary.org/2009/ap09_tips_writingnewsrelease/ap09_tips_writingnewsrelease_09_natl.html

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July 9, 2010. Topic of the Week.

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