A well-written press release can generate news coverage for months to come, and establish you as a knowledgeable and reliable resource on your subject matter. Follow these steps to writing your release in the (Associated Press/AP) standard format and help ensure success:

  1. Print the release on company letterhead to clearly identify your business.
  2. In the upper left-hand corner, write “For Immediate Release,” or, if the release has time value, “Hold Until XX/XX/XX.”
  3. Flush right (on the same line) tell the editors who they can contact for further information: “Contact: Mary Smith, 800-123-4567.”

Your press release should…

  • feature an easy-to-read typeface such as Verdana or Arial in 11 or 12 points
  • keep the news release to one page if possible — and if it’s not possible, end each running page with –more-_
  • provide a short paragraph about your company and more detailed contact information at the end
  • conclude with ### centered at the bottom of the page (this signifies the end)

Editors and producers face looming stacks of news releases every day. How can you make yours stand out? Don’t resort to using colored paper or using an unusual font of type, such attention-getting gimmicks are the mark of an amateur.

The headline is your first and sometimes only chance to hook the editor or producer and keep him or her reading. Make it newsy, clear and interesting.

Turn It Upside-Down

The body of the press release should take the format of an inverted pyramid: critical information goes in the first paragraph (who, what, when, where, why), information of next highest importance in the second paragraph, and so on. Sometimes an editor will print a news release as is, and the inverted pyramid format allows him or her to slice off the last paragraphs if necessary without sacrificing important information. Rule of thumb: Spend 75 percent of your time writing the headline and first paragraph.

Do Target Practice

It takes some effort, but slanting your release for your local market can pay off in more coverage. The releases that seem to get the most attention are the ones that are written as if they are news articles for the newspaper’s targeted publication. Research the publication, make sure the readership is appropriate (age, income, interests, etc.), and then tailor the release to that publication. 

Cut the Hype

You can’t fool members of the media, so don’t try to pass off a self-serving ad as news. When an editor or producer reads such a release, he or she sees that you’re just trying to get a free ad and tosses it. Examples of real news items are:

  • an event
  • a new marketing campaign
  • community service
  • a contest
  • a move to a new location
  • the results of a study or survey
  • a new product or service — but only if it’s truly new and unique

Ready, Aim…

You don’t need to spend a fortune to have someone distribute your release. You can compile your own list for nothing — just be sure to make it targeted. If you want to get coverage for your business, don’t send a release to the automotive editor at Car & Driver. If you don’t have the faintest idea which media members communicate to your target audience, go online to find the publication and likely editorial contacts will be listed. If not, be sure to confirm the editor’s or TV news producer’s name. It’s important to call and get the name and proper spelling of the appropriate party’s email address.