(This is where you put your organization’s logo)
Headline: Sum up why you are contacting a reporter; grab attention
Subhed: Explain the Headline; is optional, font should be smaller than headline
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (sounds obvious, but is necessary; do not try to embargo anything)
Contact: Joe Blow (person reporters will actually call), title
Name of company/agency
Phone number with area code
Maybe Website address; don’t get cute and include Twitter handle, etc. Nobody cares.
CITY, STATE (month/date/year) – Hard to over-estimate the importance of this first paragraph. Other than the headline, this graf is either going to interest a reporter enough to call you or be so uninteresting that your wonderful press release will immediately go into the garbage/deleted items folder. Write this as if you have 10 seconds to talk to someone and you really, really have to get the most important information out before your phone dies. Many reporters will not read past this graf, so spend time here getting it right. And, unlike this graf, keep it three lines or shorter; anything longer will be off-putting to reporters who don’t have time to read something this long.
Second paragraph should answer any questions that are raised in the first paragraph but cannot be answered there because it would make the first paragraph too long/bulky. If the first graf is selling the sizzle, this graf should follow up with some steak. This is often the “context graf” that explains to a reporter why they should care about the information in the headline and first graf. Do not try to over-sell yourself (This project will redefine life on Earth!) here; you will alienate the audience and be done.
You are now rapidly losing your reader, so if there is anything urgent about your press release that you already have not divulged, do it quickly. If you have not provided context yet because there was too much good stuff in the 2nd graf, do that now. You may have another three grafs after this, and they may be chock-a-block with good stuff, but most reporters never reach the 4th graf of any press release.
“This is a quote that a lazy reporter will use, even though the person who is quoted in this spot probably has no idea that this press release is even going out, much less has actually said the words in this quote,” said The Person Who is Ultimately in Charge, but is not Joe Blow, the person who is listed as the Contact person. “This is the second half of the quote, which should have something to do with the quote’s first sentence, but, you may be surprised, often does not.”
This is often a good spot for some factlets, figures, stats, other news chunklets that can be copied and pasted into a chart or graphic to accompany your story if it actually gets into the media. Think USA Today and those idiot boxes for people who aren’t going to take the time to actually read the story. If they take this easily digestible information and absorb it somehow, at least they have some idea of what you are trying to accomplish.
You are getting close to the end of the page, and no reporter likes to read a news release that is more than one page, so if you have a “brick” of information about your company – ABC Electric provides power to xx,xxx homes and xxx,xxx businesses in the Tri-State area and can be found on the Web at – this would be a good place to put it. If you have posted additional information on your own Website that is related to the news you are pitching in this press release, include the Website url here. Examples might include photos you have shot and are offering to people too cheap to send their own photographer, any “B roll” video that is available to television stations and blogs, and logos that news outlets can use to create graphic elements that have the end result of making both of you look good.
If you have an elected official or member of your board whose thoughts are pertinent to what is going on in this press release, or who will complain about not being included in the press release, include those here. There is virtually no chance they will actually get into the paper unless the reporter has absolutely nothing else to do today and needs to take up some space in the paper, even with this meaningless quote, but at least you can tell your elected official/board member that you tried, and then both of you can blame the media.
You are now on the second page of the press release, which reporters hate, so stop writing and tighten up what you already have written so it all fits on one page. Give it to a co-worker and ask them if they would take the time to write about what you are pitching them. If the answer is ‘No,’ you should probably start over.