Write A Great Press Release – 6 Tips From A Journalist Who Has Seen It All

Write A Great Press Release – 6 Tips From A Journalist Who Has Seen It All
Wendy Thomas - Wed Apr 08, 2009 @ 02:00AM
Comments: 23

As a journalist I am often sent press releases with the intent that I consider writing a news story about them. Some press releases are great. Thought has gone into the writing, they are organized and clear. Writing a story from them is a joy. I gladly take Nic McPhee  photo creditthose releases and quickly develop a story.

Other press releases are not as well written. They plod, they ramble, they go on and on about nothing. Those are the press releases that more often than not, I return to the editor and say “Thanks but no thanks, I’ve got too much other work to do”

Want to have your press release noticed and given a chance to be included as news? If so then make sure it answers the following questions:

  1. What do you have to offer? – Amazingly I get tons of press releases about, well, essentially nothing. Please, please tell me what it is you have that is newsworthy. Don’t make me guess, tell me up front.
  2. What is it that you have that the media might want? – If you have a visual story, then either include a photo or tell me how to get a photo. Got a graph that shows me how great your product is? Send it along.
  3. What is the news hook? – That fact that your company made a profit is not news, but the fact that your company made a profit and then used some money from that profit to help a struggling family – now that’s a story I can work with. If I’m writing for a local paper then I probably want to see a local hook. A national publication needs a different hook, think about where you are sending the release.
  4. What’s the angle? Where’s the fun? – Don’t be afraid to include a twist in your press release, have a little fun. As a writer, I don’t want to pump out boring news stories, I want my readers engaged. Give me some good material and plenty of details from which I can craft a winning story.
  5. What is your call to action? – Tell me what you want your readers to do after reading your article, is it to go to your website or stop in for a free cup of coffee? The worst thing you can do is give the power of a call to action to the writer because, believe it not, without clear instruction; we just might get it wrong.
  6. Who do I contact for questions on the release?  - Please don’t make me be on hold forever as they find who wrote the press release to help me with a question. I just might hang up the phone and move on. Include a name, phone number, website, and any contact information you have.

The bottom line is this. I’m just as busy as you are. If you make my life easier as a writer, chances are, I will make your life easier by picking up and writing about your press release.

Comments: 23


1. Kate Headen   |   Wed Apr 08, 2009 @ 04:57AM

Love it Wendy. This is a great perspective for businesses considering a PR campaign.

Unfortunately SEO otpimization has made people quite lazy with the press releases these days. They just pump them full of keywords, release them on a PR service and forget about it. Why you would want someone to find your release and then get bored to tears by it is beyond me.

2. Bridget Cavanaugh  |  my website   |   Wed Apr 08, 2009 @ 05:19AM

Wendy, Thank you for bullet #4. If social media has taught us anything is that we all have a funny, witty, cynical side. I see this particularly in the media tweets I follow. So, you're right, why write dry,stuff-shirt, soul-less content when Comedy Central and the Internet itself is the significant source of news. Thanks!

3. Stephanie Tilton  |  my website   |   Wed Apr 08, 2009 @ 05:21AM

Great, practical advice Wendy. Any thoughts about the social media press release template that SHIFT Communications unveiled a few years ago? http://www.prnewswire.com/mnr/shift/24521/ Do you see many press releases in this format?


4. Wendy Thomas  |  my website   |   Wed Apr 08, 2009 @ 07:19AM


I haven't seen any press releases like those from SHIFT cross my desk but then I tend to work mostly in print (newspapers and magazines) and there wouldn't be the need for me to see all that material.

If I were writing an online article, I would find that information to be invaluable. The sender would have to be careful, however, to not piecemeal the information to the point that any kind of hummanity is removed. Segmenting is good unless it requires too much work to put the pieces back together.


5. Wendy Thomas   |  my website   |   Wed Apr 08, 2009 @ 07:23AM

Thanks for your comments, I know that humor is routinely frowned upon (and something of which I warn my writing students to be careful about) but you can be witty, clever, and playful without offending anyone. It takes practice but that skill will take your Press Releases a lot farther than one written as a dry, technical summary.


6. Patty Harder  |  my website   |   Wed Apr 08, 2009 @ 09:15AM

Fantastic pointers, Wendy. Solid information that every business marketing exec should find helpful!

7. Jim  |  my website   |   Thu Apr 09, 2009 @ 04:22AM

As a former journalist turned p.r. I am amazed at how many don't get these basic concepts. Journalists need p.r. as much as p.r. needs journalists. The problem is they need good p.r.

When I was in p.r. I wrote most of my press releases as if I was writing a news story. I made the journalists job easier and in turn, obtained terrific results.


8. Jamie Wallace  |  my website   |   Thu Apr 09, 2009 @ 04:10PM

Wendy, Love this - great content.
Something I try to accomplish with all my services - whether as a writer, project manager, or account lead - is this: make someone else's life easier.
Your simple rules for creating a media-friendly PR release do just that. How hard is it to, as with any other type of writing, remember who you are writing for? A PR release is for someone in the press ... write, as you've suggested, a piece that makes their job easier. Imagine that. ;)
Especially love the tip to make things fun and interesting - we can always use more of that in the world.

9. Nilesh  |  my website   |   Tue Sep 18, 2012 @ 08:42AM

Hi I have just released a mobile app for Android mobiles. I am writing a press release but I am new to all of this. Are there any templates that you would recommend? I have a press release that I have created (first draft) but I definitely think it needs to be improved.

Just FYI my app puts your phone on silent or vibrate automatically when you start work and back on loud when you finish. I used to have a problem with forgetting that my phone was on silent after work and I'd miss a lot of phone calls. So I created this app - problem solved :). I genuinely think a lot of people could make use of it but they just don't realize that this app is out there, hence the press release.

Please help.

Kind Regards,


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23. klester   |   Sun Oct 23, 2016 @ 10:40PM

They just pump them full of keywords, release them on a PR service and forget about it. Why you would want someone to find your release and then get bored to tears by it is beyond me.





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