Press release writing 101 – how to get media pick-up and avoid the trash bin. let’s define what a press release actually is, and what it is not.  It is not a speech, not a rant, and not an ad in disguise.  I’ve seen lots of releases that were ads in disguise and frankly, journalists find them insulting, and hit the delete button faster than you can say “rubbish.”

It’s important to remember that every journalist, whether working in print or electronic media, develops a quick sense about what’s newsworthy, what might lead to a feature article, and what is a lame attempt to flog a new product or service without paying ad rates.

A real honest to goodness press release is a document that is written out in a specific format that is used to pitch a story to a reporter or editor, or to make a newsworthy announcement.
Period.  A release is not a story in and of itself – rather, think of it as the bait.

An entire press release should not be longer than 400 words, or one printed page. Difficult, I know, but it works wonderfully to focus the mind.

Five musts for a good press release:

1. Make it newsworthy. (I know I said this before, but I’m saying it again because it’s worth repeating). Have something of interest to say that will interest the readers of the publication(s) you’ve chosen to target. Keep in mind that the media love news stories with a human side to them.  Make your angle on the story entertaining, interesting or newsworthy or don’t bother sending out a release.  Ask yourself this question – rarely fails – “why would anybody beyond my own back yard care about this issue?”

2. Target your releases.  There’s no point in sending out a press release about the launch of your unique nutrition program to Fishing World magazine.

3. Use the proper press release format.  Have a professional check the release for grammar and spelling.  A spelling mistake can be the kiss of death.  Damages credibility. So, get it right.

4. Keep the press release concise.  Get to the point in the first paragraph. Use clear, concise, bright language. There’s no better way to get your story ignored than to send out a lengthy release which doesn’t say what it’s about (Who, When, Where, What and of course, Why) right up front. Don’t fill the press release with exaggerated claims and trendy phrases. If you want to know what these are, think about words like “leading edge”, “robust” and “interface”.


5. Write an excellent headline.  The headline is 90 per cent of your press release.

Or, you can hire a professional, like me, to do it for you.

About Jane Carthew Davidson

As a former senior public relations specialist with a large publicly traded multi-national chemical company, Jane Carthew Davidson produced the company’s award winning annual report for several years. Later, she was media relations specialist for Ontario’s Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC), where she wrote speeches for the executive team, trained spokespersons across the province, and developed talking points and strategies designed to clarify the role played by property assessment within the municipal taxation system. Jane is a former business reporter for the Globe and Mail Report on Business, and the Toronto Star’s Business Today. Her articles have appeared in the Toronto Star, the Medical Post, the Anglican Journal, the Financial Post and most recently, the Globe and Mail’s special supplements on subjects as wide ranging as organic farming and new investment regulations. On several occasions, Jane’s media savvy and quick research skills enabled her to win broad media attention and investment queries from Canada, the Unites States and Europe, for a unique medical device start-up venture. Following Peterborough’s Flood of the Century in 2004, Jane handled media relations for the City of Peterborough, developing and implementing the communications plan for the city’s media outreach to afflicted citizens, concerned insurance companies, city staff and other government stakeholders.
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