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  • Writer's pictureEllen Beardmore

Seven honest steps to writing a good press release

Updated: Oct 31, 2022

'How do I write a press release?' This is the number one query I receive from business owners or organisation leaders. It's understandable, as crafting a press release and sending it out to the media can seem like a daunting task. As a newspaper journalist and former editor of 15 years I received thousands and thousands of press releases in my inbox, and newsroom inboxes, every single week.

Plenty of them ended up in the bin; either because they weren't relevant to the publication, didn't actually contain even an element of a story, or enough information to create one. Many others were littered with errors or had no photographs included - more of which later.

The skills you need to write a press release can't be taught in a ten minute phone conversation. But not everyone has the budget to afford even affordable PR support or services.

So here are my seven top, and honest, hacks behind writing an effective press release, from a local journalist's point of view.

  • Focus on the reader Your business or organisation is fascinating - to you and the team in the office, that is. However, the job of a reporter is to find stories that interest their readership. If you can come up with a genuine news angle that they will be interested in reading AND which showcases the information you want to get out there, your press release has a much stronger chance of being used.

  • It's all about the intro Summarise the story in the first paragraph. You need to grab the attention of the journalist - and the reader - immediately. Many, many press releases still bury the most interesting information near the bottom of a 500 word text. A journalist with more time might read it all but the rest of them? They'll hit delete.

  • Keep it simple You don't need to rival Countdown's Susie Dent and include impressive words from the dictionary in a press release. Clear, simple and succinct is best. Industry specific jargon is also a massive turn-off as readers, who are the customers here, won't know what it means. Always include a lively quote from a relevant person to bring the story to life.

  • Tell them something new Ninety per cent of journalism is disclosure. The other ten per cent is persistence and making tea. Hone in on the new information you can provide straight away, whether it is the creation of jobs or an unheard viewpoint on a recent development.

  • Include strong photographs Very few stories publish even in print without an image and an original, decent quality photograph will always be preferable to a stock one. Don't promise images in your email, just send them. Reporters are working to near constant digital deadlines and need images fast. In some cases images, such as the one above from a running challenge, capture the story visually very well. In other cases, a headshot or team shot is fine.

  • Spell the reporter's name correctly Yes, seriously. I've been called Elaine, Eileen, Helen and even Elton by mistake. And that's before they start spelling Beardmore. Check the reporter is relevant to your story (a journalist in Leeds probably isn't going to cover a London restaurant opening) and for the love of God, check the spelling of their name, as well as proofreading the release, before you hit send.

  • Extra! Extra! Is there a video clip you could provide or an exclusive interview you could offer to the journalist if they want to develop the piece? Maybe there is an opportunity to review a new product or service. Make this clear from the start.

There's so much more to say on writing for the press - I could write a whole book about it - and there are many more resources out there to help on Google.

You can see the results of some of the successful Edit Sheffield press releases, which didn't get deleted, here And get in touch if you'd like to discuss any press release training.

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