The art of writing a press release

As a Public Relations MA student one of the skills I am required to have is to be able to write the perfect press release. Hopefully I will have required this skill after my MA.

During my work experience at De Montfort University I have been drafting press releases for the press office. When I was writing one about lingerie today some questions popped up in my mind.

How do you write the perfect press release? There are so many different ways Public Relations practitioners write them. But is there a perfect press release template anywhere that can be used for all press releases? Or is there an international or even global way of how we should write them?

There is a difference in the way that I was taught to write a press release during my BA and work experience in The Netherlands to the way I have been taught to write one here in the UK during my MA.

In Amsterdam I was used to writing WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN and WHY in the introduction because  journalists don’t have time to read a whole press release. You have to make is easy for them and put all the important information in first so they can decide if they want to read on or contact the PR agency.

During my MA and my work experience here in Leicester I was taught to write a very short introduction with a maximum of 20 to 30 words. I thought this was very short and didn’t understand why. Because we also learnt that journalists have less time now then they used to. So why would you then not make it easy for them by adding all the important facts to the introduction?

Seems strange to me, but I have adapted my style of writing and writing a press release now has become easier.

When I googled writing the perfect press release I came across 3 rules PR’s have to stick to when writing one:

  1. Is your press release really necessary?
  2. If you were running a story based on this release, what would the headline be and does the first sentence fit into less than 15 words? If no, or the first sentence is ‘Mrs Miggins plc announces…’, go back to Q1.
  3. If you got Q2 right, why are you changing the wording for a press release?

The first question is very important because I’ve had to write some press releases while thinking: why would this be interesting for anyone in the world?

Apparently a press release is still the most popular way of contacting a journalist. So it is very important that we get this right.

This image shows you the way I have been taught in The Netherlands how to write a press release.

This is the exact template that I would follow. But I feel like the way I have been taught now is exactly the other way round.

If we turn this figure upside down that would sum up the way I feel like I have been taught how to write a press release here in the UK.

I’m interested in how you write your press releases and what you think is the most effective template for this.

Let me know what your views are on this topic.


3 Responses to “The art of writing a press release”

  1. 1 Alice Treherne
    January 25, 2011 at 19:22

    I think you will find that the ‘perfect’ press release doesn’t exist. In my experience, preferred formats vary from between clients and agencies. Creative writing is so subjective. A client may choose to write something differently to the way you write it, even though it may be saying exactly the same thing.

    I think the most important points to work to would be – make sure the press release is targeted to the right media in the first instance, be concise and to the point and make sure your spelling and grammar is faultless.

    You say ‘the most popular way to contact a journalist is by a press release’ this is probably because you have done the work for them, and if written well you will often find your words carbon copied in the paper.

    That fact that you are actively thinking about writing an effective release shows that you will probably be very good at it once it is in your daily routine.

  2. January 26, 2011 at 08:46

    Thanks Alice for your comment on this blog post. I have had experience with clients before that always seem to want change your press release by adding words that you would never use. But the client is always right.
    I think your point on targetting the right media is really important, thanks for that.
    I still see a lot of spelling mistakes and grammar faults. Strangely enough in the UK spelling mistakes are made more often than in The Netherlands, I have noticed this during my work experience here.
    Hope I will be good at writing press releases after I finish my MA course and start working in PR. Thanks again for your comment.

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