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How to write your own press release

Last updated: 01 April 2022

How to write your own press release

Sometimes the most effective tool for a business wanting publicity is a short snappy press release sent to the local media. If it is relevant to their readers, and especially if you’ve enclosed a usable picture and a few quotes, you will get some valuable editorial space. How to present journalists with the opportunity to promote your business for free is not difficult. There are a few basic rules and a format to follow and that is it.

Firstly, remember that journalists like to be given information, and need a ‘peg’ to hang stories on. Any active business can find aspects of its operations that fit. The local media like to hear about new businesses formed, or new premises opened. New jobs, big orders, news products are all news. Open days, new machinery, receiving government money are also likely to get coverage. Anniversaries such as ten years in business (or even one!), or the first/ hundredth/thousandth order are also popular. Consider informing the press about new appointments, exams passed, awards won.

So how do you write an effective press release? Firstly, find out who the relevant people are. Note the names of those who do your sort of story in the press and on TV. Get companies addresses from BRAD, or Willings Press Guide in the public library. Don’t forget local, national and trade press, BBC and independent TV and radio. Produce a useable list and contact them whenever anything newsworthy happens.

To write the press release, follow basic rules. Keep it short and informative. You need to be able to answer the six basic questions: who, what, why, when, where and how. Put most of the important information in the first short, clear paragraph. Keep the least important until last. This gives a clear structure. Often journalists only read the first paragraph, so get it right.

Keep the paragraphs short, and include some lively quotes. Don’t ramble and stick to one side of A4. Enclosing a good quality picture can tip the balance on whether your story is used or not. Editors like pictures! Just one though.

Layout is important. Be professional and save the journalist making an effort. If you get it wrong your press release will end up straight in the bin. Start off with PRESS RELEASE or NEWS RELEASE, and the date. If you don’t want the information used until a certain date you must write EMBARGO on it. Then put the date the news can be released (even the time, if important). Write a short headline (it doesn’t have to be clever), and double space your text. Leave plenty of white space on the page. If the text does stray over two pages write mf (more follows) at the bottom of the first one and always finish with ‘ENDS’. Underneath ends write where the journalist can get further information from – name, address and telephone number and possibly email. Send to the editor of each relevant organisation.

While publicity cannot replace the usefulness of advertising, it can complement it. News is factual and people tend to believe it more than advertising. If you are lucky, the local paper might even send a journalist to interview you, maybe with a photographer tagging along, and instead of the brief news item you were hoping for, a full page feature may follow. This in turn may generate further business and yet more news stories.

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