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Dec 2, 2010 10:30 AM, By Don Kreski

How to write an effective press release.

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Writing tips

Remember that a good release must offer the writer or editor something of value.

It's hard to find fresh content for every issue of any publication, so magazines and newspapers are looking for good ideas and interesting material. The best stories educate and entertain; they present useful information in a creative, enjoyable way.

As you write your release:

  • Keep the message simple, and write clearly and concisely.
  • Look at publications in your target market and try to write in a style that's similar to what they would use.
  • Realize that you are imitating the style of a news story, not an ad or a brochure.
  • Stick to the facts. Be honest. Do not fabricate information. Check everything that you write.
  • It's OK to include opinions, but if you do, find an appropriate person to quote and state the opinion as his or hers. Even still, most editors will react poorly to obvious hype. If you find yourself using words and phrases such as "breakthrough," "state-of-the-art," or "world-class," you may be overdoing it.
  • Your headline should be short, descriptive, and, ideally, eye-catching.
  • A subhead can help explain your topic at a glance.
  • Some publicists like to include a summary just below the subhead: one or two sentences intended for those who like to skim through releases. If you do this, be sure to identify it as a "summary" or otherwise set it off.
  • Begin your release with a dateline including the city of issue, state, and date.
  • Try to present your most interesting and important idea first and in an engaging way. A good lead is difficult to write. Expect to spend more time writing this first sentence than anything else in your release.
  • Structure your message in descending order, with the crucial points first and supporting material later.
  • Consciously include the five W's of journalism: who, what, when, where, and why (and if applicable, how).
  • You'll want to include all five as early as possible: in your headline, lead, or certainly in your first paragraph.
  • Assume your reader is intelligent but perhaps unfamiliar with industry terms. Briefly describe or clarify any technical information you include.
  • Try to keep the release to one page, usually at least 300 but no more than 800 words. When you have more information, break it up into separate pieces: the story itself, a background sheet about the company, full specifications on a new product, and so on.
  • Write a brief statement about your company for the end of the release. Include any special credentials your company may have in the market area you are writing about.
  • I like to put contact information at the top of the release, but many publicists put it at the bottom, and some in both places. Include the name of the best person to contact, the company name, phone number, and website. If you include an email address, don't use your main email, as it may end up in online publications and be picked up by spammers.

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