How to Write an Effective Press Release Part 2: Practical Guidance

Andrea Palmer

Published Tue 14 Oct by Andrea Palmer in Marketing More Effectively

Part 2 of our article on writing an effective press release gives you indepth guidance on how to format, structure and send your press release.

Last week, we looked at how press releases can benefit your business or organisation, by helping you spread the word in your local community about your news. 

This week, I'm going to give you guidance to make sure your press release is more likely to be read and published by newspapers, magazines and e-zines in your area.

Practical Guidance

Getting your press release right before you send it off can help ensure it will be more likely to be read and, more importantly, published.

  • Consider which format you are going to send your press release in: the traditional way is to send it through the post in letter form, but it can also be faxed or emailed. Emailing press releases is not yet common practice but it is becoming a more widespread phenomenon, especially as many companies are committed to reducing their papertrail and being more environmentally friendly
  • If you are emailing your press release, it’s a good idea to avoid sending it as an attachment. Putting your press release into the main body of your email will mean it is less likely to be ignored or regarded as spam. Many people are reluctant to open attachments from unsolicited sources
  • If you are printing it out or faxing your press release, use one side of the paper only and double-space your text. It’s a good idea to leave at least 2.5cm margins at either side, and indent the first line of each paragraph with the exception of the first one
  • Again, if you’re printing or faxing it, use your company’s headed paper to give the impression of professionalism
  • Underneath the letterhead, or at the top of your message if you are emailing the press release, type the words PRESS RELEASE in upper case, centre aligned
  • On the next line down after PRESS RELEASE, type the date and left align this. On the same line, but aligned to the right, write FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE. If you do not want your press release to go out immediately, on the left hand side type EMBARGO and the date on which you would like your press release to be published. It is not usual practice to put an embargo on the date, but newspapers will usually respect your request. However, it is probably best to wait until it is ready for immediate release, as embargos can mean a publication could forget all about your press release - out of sight, out of mind
  • Below all of these headings, centre align and capitalise your title: ours reads : FREE SEMINARS HELPING NOTTINGHAM BUSINESS OWNERS. Keep it short and to the point!
  • An easy way to structure your press release and make sure it contains all the information readers will want to know, is to make sure it answers these simple questions:
    WHO: What is the name of your business / organisation?
    WHAT: What is the event that your story is about? What has happened / what has your company / organisation done?
    WHEN: When this happened or is due to happen
    WHERE: Where has the event taken place / where will it take place?
    WHY: What was the motivation for doing it? This is a perfect opportunity to include a quote from a senior member of your team or from you, telling the story from their point of view
  • The length of your press release depends on the format too - if you’re faxing or printing your press release, keep it to one page long. If you’re sending it via email, a maximum of 400 words
  • Using quotes can help to make your press release more interesting for readers. It’s a good way to get in an opinion, as press releases / news stories are generally told from a neutral standpoint
  • Apart from your direct quotes, the tone of the press release should be matter of fact - report the facts concisely and dispassionately
  • Publications will generally appreciate it if you are able to offer them photographs of the event / occurence / person concerned - offer good quality photographs of something taking place - say the opening event at your new premises - instead of a standard group staff photo taken in a studio
  • At the end of your press release, it is important that you include contact details - this is useful for the editor of the newspaper to get in touch with you if they need to clarify anything, and can also be useful for readers - if you are hosting an event, give a phone number or email website address so that people can book or get further information
  • If there is anything you want to convey to the editor of the publication that you don’t necessarily want to be part of the press release itself, put this at the bottom of the page and preface it with the words ‘Note to Editor’
  • Last but not least, it's well worth getting someone to check over your press release before you send it off to look for spelling, punctuation or grammatical errors. Our copywriter Jeanette says: 'The person to whom you're sending your press release will be suitably impressed to see something that is well-presented and well-written. The less they have to work on it to bring it up to publication standard, the better!' 

Good luck with writing your press release. As we've discussed, it can be a great way of forging relationships with your local press and getting the word out to a wider audience about your company or organisation. One of our press releases is available to read, formatted as a news article. We'd be interested to hear how you get on with yours: use the comments section below to give us some feedback. Need further advice and guidance? Visit our ask an expert page!

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