Writing Press Releases
Liz Williams continues her advice by covering
the layout of press releases.
Having pointed out the importance of a first sentence (in the previous article), which will tell both editor and, ultimately, reader what the story is about. You need to go on to the body of the release.
In the case of a tournament report, who won is in the first paragraph: it is not a gripping story with the winner as the surprise at the end.
The next part of the release should carry details to back up the first part - for your local paper I do not advocate a detailed report of the winning game along the lines of 'Bloggs hit in and took yellow round to one back and gave a traditional leave' The readership of your local paper won't understand it and the editor will use his red pen mercilessly here.
Again, if the event is a barbeque or open croquet day, say when and why the event is taking place. Say what the club hopes will happen as a result. If the release is covering a past event, then it should contain details of how many people turned up, who won the raffle (only if the prizes are not worth a lot. Sometimes the story of how Bloggs won a telly appearing in the local paper can lead to Bloggs having burglars!), and how much money was raised. If the Mayor or local important person turns up, say so.
It is always good to have a quote in a story if you can. If a local club member won an important trophy, get a quote - this is likely to be predictable, but will make a much better story in the paper. If it is an event, get the organizer's comments. Sometimes you can do this by writing the quotes out as part of the release and getting the person quoted to agree with what you have written.
If there is a bit of background information you want to give about the club, put this at the end (this is what I meant about an introduction).
The easiest way to illustrate all of the above is to show a press release I wrote earlier this year, which was printed in full in the South Wales Echo. Remember your aim is have your press release printed as close to your original as possible - that way you know you writing well.
(This is the main story - we are not going to work up to it at the end, it has to be told in the first sentence)
(Here we have a brief description of the match, written for South Wales General Public)
(These two paragraphs go into more background detail of who played)
(Even more background detail here - does not belong at the beginning at all, but in an academic essay you would need to use this to set a scene)
(You can put ends, it is a tradition, some textbooks say use it, some say not - I always do because the journalist knows exactly where the release ends then. The release should have been in double line spacing until this point, where it reverts to single line spacing)
(Always, always, put in where further information can be gained - they may want to write more, or you may have missed out something inadvertantly which they will spot - location perhaps.)
(The note to editors comes right at the end and is not an essential part of the press release. It is used to give journalists a bit of background about the subject. I put this in every press release. Although editors may stop noticing it after a while, a new journalist might not know much about the club, and it is important that your local newspaper does have an awareness of the club.)
Having said that quotes should be used wherever possible, you will notice that I have not used them, however, in my next email, I will have another example of a press release.
If you have any doubts about writing a press release: buy a textbook. In the UK the best writer on the subject is Frank Jefkins. His guidance on the writing of press releases is excellent.
10 Nov 1998
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