Effective Press Releases

There are very specific formats for writing press releases. You will improve your odds that your story will be picked up, if you follow them. The standard press release format is designed to be used quickly and easily, so you have every incentive to use the proper format.

To start, develop "press release" letterhead. Although styles vary, it should typically contain the name of your organization, your address, phone number, and any method to reach you, such as fax and e-mail. This should be at the top left. The word "News Release", "Press Release", or something similar is placed at the top right. Press releases should be on either standard letter size (8*" x 11") or legal size (8*" x 14") paper.

The first information at the top left of your press release should read "For Immediate Release" and today's date or "For Release on ..." with the date it is to be released. On the same line, on the right margin, type "For more information, contact:" and the name of the person who will be available to answer questions from the media.

The first bit of text is a press release needs to have a brief summary of the topic of the release. It should follow a basic "Who, What, Where, When, Why". This may be your only opportunity to get the attention of the media for your story. If what they read in this paragraph interests them, they will continue to read your press release and the chances of them picking up your story increases.

A good press release follows what is known as an inverted triangle. This means that the press release needs to begin with the most important information. The next paragraph should contain slightly less important information and so on. Detailed data should be in the middle and below, to be used as background and filler.

Press releases are designed to transmit facts. Opinions should be expressed in quotes from someone in your group. Clearly state who is being quoted and what relationship they have to your organization.

At the end of the release, you need to indicate to journalists that the release is ended. The usual method of transmitting your release is via fax, and this is the surest way to let journalists know they have received the entire release. The most common method is to type "###" on the first line after your text is completed. If your release goes over one page, type "MORE" at the bottom of the first page. Then retype the title and the date on page two, so there is no question which release page 2 goes with.


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