Guide

Public relations (PR)

Write an effective press release

What's important to you may not grab the news organisation. Consider what can make a story about your business newsworthy. Factors that make a story newsworthy include:

  • timing – current and recent events and the latest updates on a situation
  • significance – the number of people affected by the story
  • proximity – how ‘close to home’ a story is
  • prominence – links to famous people or organisations  
  • human interest – stories that provoke emotional responses

Structure your press release

Most press releases are now delivered by email. It is better to put your press release in the body of the email, rather than as an attachment. Put the headline in the subject line to grab the journalist’s attention.

In the body of the email, use the heading ‘Press Release’. Then write the date. Avoid using embargos as these can be frustrating for journalists – indicate ‘for immediate release’. Put a headline on the left - six or seven words in bold type. The headline will be active, understandable, convey the main point of the story and make people want to read on.

Your press release should convey the ‘what, who, where, how and why’ of the story. Ensure that it easily read and written in a journalistic style. Avoid using excessive marketing language. If you sending the release to an online news outlet, use ‘writing for the web' principles.  

The first paragraph, the introduction, expands on the headline. It concentrates on what has happened or will happen, who is involved and where. It conveys the whole story in a nutshell and its interest and relevance to the readership. It would still be understandable if the rest of the press release was deleted.

Tailor the introduction to the publication. A trade journal is attracted by what a new product can do for its business audience, a local paper is interested in local jobs, prestige or human interest.

Subsequent paragraphs give the how and why, explaining and developing the story outlined in the introduction.  

Most press releases will include a quote from a senior person in the business.

Keep everything tight and clear, with short sentences. Don't make it sound like an ad. Write the release like a newspaper report. Refer to your business in the third person - 'it' not 'we'.

Write 'end' and then name a contact within your business, with phone and email details. A 'note to editors' can give background or more detailed information.

You can offer accompanying photography by including ‘photography available’ in the note to editors. Often photos with captions are published instead of a full article, so don’t miss the opportunity