Killer headlineYou need a headline that grabs people immediately.
Imagine your press release pinging into a busy news reporter's inbox. It's the 100th press release that day. Will your subject line get them to open the email or hit delete?
Original angleOf course, you can only write an attention-grabbing headline if you've got a good story. So what makes a good story? Try some of these:
- be surprising or unusual, for example debunk a myth
- be original
- catch the zeitgeist
- be funny but not corny
- be relevant to the audience of the website/magazine/newspaper
Is it newsworthy?The launch of a new company or product is newsworthy. A minor upgrade to an existing product is probably not.
Your story must pass the 'So what?' test: why would someone want to read it? Be honest: would you want to read it? If not, don't press release it.
Crown jewels in introA press release is not a university essay so don't start slowly and build up to a grand finale.
A press release is like a news story. Put the best bits in the headline and introductory paragraph, as there's no guarantee the journalist will read past the headline or first paragraph.
This is the inverted pyramid of news writing.
Tell a good storyMake sure the press release makes sense and flows logically. Are there any obvious gaps? Test on friends and colleagues that are unfamiliar with the subject matter.
Be conciseYour press release must be no more than a page of A4.
Headlines must not be too long. News websites will have character limits for headlines - for example 55 characters including spaces.
Keep sentences reasonably short too. An organisation's style guide may place limits on the number of words per sentence or per paragraph. See the BBC news style guide.
Be accurateCheck your facts. Add correct job titles for anyone you mention.
And proofread your press release before you send it out.
Great quotesYou need interesting, bite-sized quotes from real people. Avoid jargon, corporate speak and marketing fluff. They're boring and will get ignored.
Great imageEvery news story needs a great image or 2. If you don't have one, you're making extra work for the journalist as they'll have to source one.
Worst case: you might not get coverage if you don't have an image.
Make sure you provide an image caption too - it must tell people who or what's in the picture, where it is, what's happening.
What's a great photo?The photo must be well-lit – no gloomy shots. Any people in your photo need to look natural, not posed. And they must face the front – no backs of heads.
If it's a product shot, use a white background so that there's no clutter around the product.
Mobile imagesIf you only have images taken with a mobile phone, they may not be suitable for print - check with the newspaper or magazine. Generally images for magazines and newspapers need to be higher resolution (300 dpi) than images for websites (72 dpi).
Tailor itYou may want several versions of your press release. Tailor it to the sector: a women's magazine will want a different angle to a local newspaper.
What press releases look likeSee what a press release should look like and get tips on press releases for local campaigns from Friends of the Earth's Phillip Byrne.
Or look at other people's press releases - in organisations' About us section, look for tabs like News, Press or Media centre.
Line up spokespeopleWhen you're sending out a press release, make sure you have spokespeople available for interview.
Be aware that journalists are on stressy deadlines and make sure you get back to them quickly. It could mean the difference between getting coverage or not.