How to write a great press release…and get media coverage

Before you start writing your press release check it has news value and is a real story. If not, then the media just won’t run it.

If you’re not sure then a good PR professional can tell you if your story warrants a press release or is more something you would share on social media, on your website or in a newsletter.

There are key things that a journalist looks for in a story – does it have a good human interest angle? Is it about an innovation, an interesting partnership or can you prove that your news will have an impact on people? Is it an interesting fund-raising event?

Vital statistics

Once you have identified your story, make sure it contains:

  • Who?Who are the key players — your company, anyone else involved with the service/product/event? Who does your news affect and who does it benefit?
  • When?What is the timing of this? Does this link to any national related events/awareness days?
  • What? What is it? What’s new?
  • Why?Why is this important news — what does it provide that is different?
  • Where?You need to make sure if you are targeting regional media that you are in their patch – if you’re not sure call them and ask. They won’t cover something if you’re not. Include a road name and town/city.
  • How?How did this come about?

How to write a press release that’s used by media

I find it easier to write a heading and then the rest of the press release, but some people write the release first and then go back to the heading. Maybe start with a draft heading and you can always go back and change it.

The heading should sum up in one line what the story is about.

Your first paragraph should capture the essence of the story and be a couple of lines. You want to ensure that your press release is used, so you need to grab the reporter’s attention straight away.

Once you have written your first paragraph, the rest follows, with each paragraph providing more information using the who, why, what when etc.

Your press release shouldn’t run onto more than two pages. If you need to include more information you can include a Note to Editors section at the end – but include this in the two sides. Reporters don’t have time to read pages of text.

Try and include a comment from the key person involved, including their job title. Read similar publications to the ones you are targeting and write it in a similar style. You want to make it easy for the journalist to use your story.

Remember that stories are cut from the bottom up so ensure the most important points are at the top or higher up in the release.

Always include your contact details in case the reporter wants more information.

How best to send your press release

Generally, it’s best by email and I put the heading of the press release into the subject line to grab the reporter’s attention.

A good idea is to paste the press release into the main body of the email – that way the reporter can scan it and if the organisation blocks attachments, it can still be delivered.

Why good images are vital for PR coverage

Good photos will give your story a far greater chance of being used so ask a professional photographer or a friend to take a selection of photos – some landscape and some portrait  so reporters have a choice of two shapes.

Compress high-resolution images so they still reproduce well in newspapers and magazines – websites and online publications can accept much lower resolution files.

The image should convey your story in photographic form. Try and go for something a bit creative if you can. Send images as a link via Google Drive or WeTransfer.

Always include a caption for your story – explaining who the photo shows – left to right.

Follow through

I have a high success rate on all the press releases I send out – partly because I always contact journalists after I have emailed them the press release.

Be friendly but never pushy. Journalists are busy people and you want to try and build a good relationship – also you may want to send them further news.

I always check a release has reached the right person – never assume it has! When I call to check I also explain the bones of the story and often this generates some interest and makes the journalist look out for the press release if I re-send it.

Always follow through with a phone call. Sometimes the publication may have a relevant feature coming up and you’ve just called at the right time. At the very least, it helps them to get to know you and what your organisation does.

With rich pickings of news to choose from, personal contact helps to push your story to the top of the pile.

Examples to help

If you’d like some examples to help you write your press release, you can get an idea from my case studies. You can also see some of the resulting coverage from the releases.

I am a fully-qualified, former journalist so I know what will make a good story and how to write and pitch it in the most effective way. This gives me the benefit of knowing exactly what the media are looking for and how best to deal with them.

Contact me for more information about strategic, professional communications and PR support.