Tips for effective press releases

Not a full guide on how to write and format press releases – just a few tips to help them succeed

Know your target

Identify your target media, and get to know what they cover and how they tell it. Don’t send out a press release without thinking about where it’s going. If it’s not relevant to everyone on your list, then don’t send it to everyone. A journalist should know that every time they see an email from you, it’s going to be worth looking at.

Why now?

If you want your story in the news, then it has to be new. Every story needs a ‘news peg’ that answers the question, ‘Why now?’ Government announcements, new reports, surveys and events are all possible news pegs on which to hang your story.

The issue, not the organisation

Your organisation is very seldom the main point of any story. So make sure the headline and first paragraph focus on the issue, not the organisation. Try not even mentioning your organisation until the second paragraph at the earliest.

People, people, people

How does this issue affect people? Find the people story in your cause, and you’ve found the story.

The cut’n’paste top

Keep your strong opinions and colourful language for the quote. The number one job of the headline and opening sentence are to tell (and sell) the story to the journalist. But the opening paragraphs could also provide the copy that makes up the rest of the piece – so be subtle in how you angle it, don’t use ‘we think’, and it might get used just the way it is.

The quote

Every press release should have at least one quote. Occasionally it’s appropriate to have a quote from more than one person, but this will seldom be from another person in your organisation – more likely to be an expert, or someone who’s affected by the issue. Keep quotes interesting and personable, and make sure you clearly state your position here, not just in the opening paragraphs.