Press Releases: Make Them Count

Photo courtesy of - Healingdream and freedigitalphotos.net

PR professionals will see that the key to establishing credibility and having a press release end up in the hands of whom it was intended rather than in an office wastebasket depends on a properly formatted press release sans grammatical and stylistic errors.

According to a Web page on PRLOG.org describing how to write a press release, “A press release is simply a statement prepared for distribution to the news media announcing something claimed as having news value with the intent of gaining media coverage.”

As is typical of news writing, delivering an effective PR message to an audience must be come in inverted pyramid style to make its mark on readers. This style focuses on putting the most important information at the top and putting the less important information in descending order until the least important bit of information is at the very bottom.

The graphic below describes inverted pyramid style in its simplest form.

Inverted Pyramid Style - Graphic by Justine Mrsich

In the 9th edition textbook titled “Public Relations: Strategies and Tactics” by Dennis Wilcox, when writing a press release, one should include the basics (name, affiliation, release date, etc…), look at media events to determine appropriate times to publish, use tie-ins to publicly known events and holidays whenever possible and attempt to localize news.

In doing so, media receptivity to a press release will be greater. However, in order to fully grab the attention of the gatekeepers that control what the public sees, a proper format will help to catch their eye.

According to Dr. Dean Kazoleas, public relations professor at Cal State Fullerton, every press release should be formatted as follows:


NEWS RELEASE

FOR INFORMATION: WHO SHOULD BE GETTING THIS

FROM Information:      Your full name
Day:  & Eve/Wknd
Email address
Phone Number

FOR RELEASE:             March 15, 2004/or For Immediate Release

SUMMARY HEADLINE

Subhead Allows You to Keep Headline Brief
Newsworthy information for the media is included here. It should never be more than two pages (approximately 400 words) in length.
Include one or more of the six criteria for news: public impact, proximity, currency, timeliness, prominence and human interest.
Follow the basics of news reporting by including who, what, where, when and how.
#     #     #

My company.com


Using proper news judgment in association with the inverted pyramid style will provide readers with a succinct presentation of important material to get the media’s attention.

According to Wilcox, writers may also include links to sources, blogs or other online discussions, meta tags, photos, slide shows, and whatever else may enhance the effectiveness of one’s press release.

Writers should also never forget that once the aforementioned items are done, a PR professional must ensure that grammatical and stylistic errors do not exist. To do so, use of The Associated Press Stylebook will provide one with the rules and guidelines for an error-free press release. For online access to the AP Stylebook, visit the site.

The stylebook can be purchased online or in stores for writers that want to ensure they emit an air of professionalism with everything they write.

By Justine Mrsich

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2 Responses to Press Releases: Make Them Count

  1. mbalandra says:

    This story is extremely relevant to the work I am currently doing for a non profit organization. It is so hard to gain media coverage these days, and the only way to even compete for attention is to have a news release that is well-written and has the appropriate news angle for the media outlet. In the little experience I have, it is already blatantly apparent that press releases need to be tailored to the media outlet or journalist.

  2. Justine Mrsich says:

    Thank you. As much as they shouldn’t be tailored, I suppose doing so in ways that coincide with your companies ethical standards and are in line with their values could help out the effectiveness of the press release.

    As a question to all:
    Does anyone else believe that press releases should be tailored? Can it be viewed as unethical?

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