News Releases 101

Who cares?
Why do they/should they care?
What do they want and need to know?

If you can answer these three questions before you begin to write a news release, you’ve got a good start. Now all you have to do is make your release stand out from the avalanche of approximately 300 that editors in the Seattle market receive every day.

How can you increase the odds that your release will jump out and grab the editors’ attention? Here are some tips on creating a release that separates the pros from the wanna-bes:

  • Put the date of the release and contact information (your name and number/s where you can be reached 24/7) at the very top of the page where the information is easy to find.
  • Grab attention with a boldface, centered headline that has either a strong “news hook” or a cleverly stated special interest angle. For example, headlines on a series of home decorating seminars that received good coverage included, “Well-Dressed Walls” and “Bedrooms: Anything Goes!”
  • Begin the first line with the name of the city where your company is located or where the story will happen, followed by a dash and the opening sentence.
  • The first sentence should refer to the idea expressed in the headline and fill in some of the details. Begin with the most important information first.
  • Each succeeding paragraph should contain further details of less and less importance so that editors can quickly determine if they’re interested and then choose where to chop it off without losing essential data.
  • End with a paragraph describing your business services, how long you’ve been in practice, etc. This may not be used in a news story but it establishes your credibility and tells editors whether you’re newsworthy and/or a reliable source of information.
  • Edit ruthlessly! Make sure every word is necessary. Study the news columns to get a feel for how it’s done. Limit simple announcements, such as new staff appointments, to one page. For most other stories, no more than two pages is a good rule of thumb. It’s rare that a story is so complex–and interesting–enough to warrant more. The Associated Press Stylebook, available at any bookstore, is a standard style guide.
  • When a story continues to another page, include “(more)” at the bottom center. This lets the editor know that there’s additional information on this subject somewhere in the stack of releases! At the top of each succeeding page, include a “slug line,” such as “Hot Speaker in Town–2,” to let the editor know which story is continuing and which page of the release it is.
  • At the end of the release, center the standard news symbol, for “the end,” which is three pound signs, “###”. This leaves no doubt that the release is finished.

For a copy of a sample news release that contains these tips, click here.

© Evelyn Clark, The Corporate Storyteller, is president of Clark & Company, a marketing communication firm in the Seattle area. A public relations practitioner with more than 20 years experience, she was accredited by the Public Relations Society of America in 1986. Her firm’s services include facilitation of retreats and communication workshops, marketing and communication management, media relations strategy development, and media training.

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