Unlike articles and stories, the aim of a press release is not to suck the reader in due to curiosity and take them on a journey to the punch line at the end.
A press release is intended to get an editor’s attention. Whether that’s the editor of a publication or the producer of a broadcast medium (local radio or TV). That means that the headline and the first paragraph need to put all your goods up-front.
The headline needs to tell people what the article is about e.g. Local tennis coach wins national award or Exciting new technology changes the future of business. Not Pete’s big surprise or What’s in Arvin’s garage?
Then the first paragraph needs to summarise what the press release is about.
This should layout the reason why this is news. And if it isn’t news, then don’t write a press release! News to you, may not count as news for the publication you are targeting. Ask yourself, ‘Will readers find this interesting/entertaining/useful?’ The opening of a new store in the High Street or a new restaurant may count as news, but if you’ve moved office, that’s only of interest to your clients and probably won’t get past the editor’s ‘spike’ (press-speak for the bin)!
Don’t write too much – a page and a half at most. All the editor needs is to get the gist of the story. If they think it’s interesting and would make a good feature, they’ll call you. That means you must make sure there’s a phone number and email where they can easily get hold of you. It’s best to add your mobile, as if they have to leave a message, they probably won’t.
If you have an image, attach it as a separate item. NEVER embed the image into a Word document, it makes it virtually unusable. However, do add a caption to the end of your press release – making it clear what the image is and identifying who is in it from left to right, names AND titles or roles.
When press releases were typed on paper and posted, double spacing was expected, this provided space for the editor to go to work with their red pen. Today we live in a digital world, so you don’t need to double space everything, but don’t submit a crammed together wad of text. White space makes reading easy (and not just for editors) so, maybe set your line spacing to 1.15 and at least a half line between paragraphs. Left-aligned (not justified) paragraphs, without indents look best too.
Now all you have to do is come up with good stories!