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Proper writing techniques for the press
A news release can be a cost-effective way of informing the media – and the public – about your product, business, or organization. But before you jump on the PR bandwagon, there are a few basics you should know about writing for the media.
As one who has been on the receiving end of many a news release, let me tell you that sloppy news releases can be very frustrating for an editor. You want to make the editor’s job easier, not harder. Be sure to include your name and contact information at the top right of the release.
Include a headline at the top of the release. Keep it in present tense, for example: Acme Moving Company Launches Website.
The first paragraph of your release should include the “Five W’s:” who, what, where, why and when. If you don’t want to include an exact date in the release, use “recently” to give a sense of timeliness.
A news release should be written in “inverted pyramid” style. The most important information is at the top of the release, with the least important information below. This makes it easy for editors on tight deadlines to cut the release from the bottom. At the very end of your release should be “boilerplate” information about your company or organization – a brief paragraph stating how long it has been in business and its areas of specialization.
Tailor your release to each media outlet. For a broadcast outlet, include phonetic pronunciations of any proper names. If you’re targeting online publications, keep your sentences and paragraphs short (a good guideline for any media outlet), and use bullets to convey key points. For print media, double-space the release.
How you distribute the release also can impact its content. Unless you’ve got a very complicated subject matter, keep printed news releases to one page. If you’re sending a news release via email, keep the subject line as straightforward as possible. Never send unsolicited attachments.
Forget what your English teacher taught you. Avoid unnecessary adjectives. A news release should be completely objective. If you want to include an opinion, do so in a direct quote from a company executive and choose your words carefully: Journalists cringe at blatant promotion.
Finally, don’t forget to proofread your news release. A news release with typographical errors (typos) or poor grammar undermines your credibility.
An invaluable resource is the AP Stylebook, known as the journalist’s “bible.” It’s available for purchase in both print and electronic forms at http://www.apstylebook.com .
Darcy Silvers is a a freelance copywriter and a
professionally accredited public relations consultant.
She is author of Public Relations PRimer, the NMOA’s e-book on public relations. To order, visit http://www.nmoa.org/catalog/publicity/index.htm.
This article originally appeared in Professional Marketer and is reprinted with permission from the American Marketing Association, Philadelphia chapter.
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