From Cisco Systems to small nonprofits, organizations are still sending out press releases. And learning how to write them in our popular online UGotClass course, “Writing News Stories and Press Releases.”
Here’s our latest top tips for writing press releases from the class.
- Headlines too long; and no verb!
Headlines need to be short, and contain an active verb. Do not use a colon or semi-colon in a headline. Basically if your headline needs two lines, it is too long.
- Sentences too long.
The words are fine. The message is fine. But you get too many messages in one sentence. If that sentence has commas in it (they almost all do) then it is called in the trade a “run on” sentence. It just runs on and on. This is easy to fix. Just put in periods where you had a comma. And then make the next words a new sentence, often by adding just one or two words.
- Include your email address in Contact Information.
Below the story you should provide Contact information in case the journalist or media source wants to contact you. Make sure your email address is included in this area. We have not seen text numbers for additional info on press releases, but a text number surely would not hurt either.
- Orient the press release to the public, not your organization.
Phrase your press release in copy that appeal to a reader’s interests, not those of your organization. Too many press releases are great reading for others in your organization, but do not appeal to a reader’s interests. Instead of focusing on “We”, your organization, focus on “You,” the general public.
- Separate Contact Information from the story.
You need to tell the journalist where the story ends, and therefore where your contact information begins. The traditional symbol for the end of a news story is # # #. But you can use another way to express it.
- Put your URL at the end of the story.
At the end of the story, your web site address seems like part of the “news.” If you put it anywhere else your URL will seem like a sales pitch, but at the end of the story your web site address seems helpful. Plus, if your media source does not want it included, it is easy to delete it when placed at the end of the story.
- Make it ready to run.
Do not make the journalist have to edit your story to make it work. Maybe s/he will, but maybe s/he will put it on the ‘back burner’ and forget about it. The back burner is not where you want your press release to be.