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Writing your press release

February 1, 2009

Press releases are very important. They are a tool for getting your name, your brand into publications, both online and in print. The idea is to get your press release read by people who can use the news you have to share. Also, press releases remind people, potential customers, about your business.

And, press releases are easy to write.

Press releases must include the 5 W’s: who, what, when, where, why; and your contact information. Within those 5 W’s, include the time, date, place.

Scan the business section of your newspaper. Notice that the press releases that get printed are newsworthy: something new happened such as a relocation, renovation or expansion. New products and services also make the news. Think of the word “new” and “newsworthy” when you think of writing your press release. When you promote an employee, that is newsworthy. When your business or employee(s) receives an award, write that press release. Just be sure to include the 5 W’s and your contact info. 

Including contact information with your press release is vital. The copy editor at the paper can verify the details more readily, and perhaps the editor wants to do a story or feature on exactly the type of news included in your press release. That is the beauty of press releases. It works for the sender, and it works for the editor. 

The editor will not tire of receiving your well-written press releases because they are newsworthy and that’s the name of the game. And, by “well written,” I mean that you’ve included the pertinent information: who, what, when, where, why, which includes the date, time and place.

I’ve seen information found in an annual report published as a press release. Of course, if you want to publish the entire annual report in the newspaper, you could talk to the advertising department and learn your options. Advertising supplements are supported by advertising. If you think you can generate a list of potential advertisers for your supplement, the advertising executives will do the selling. 

A simple press release could be the announcement of your business anniversary. Did your business just reach its first anniversary? Are you having an Open House? Write a press release with the 5 W’s.

If your business is involved in projects with other businesses, organizations, charities, scholarships, internships, festivals – anything out in the community, that is newsworthy. Write about it! Newspapers have readers who demand local news. 

Presently, these are the guidelines used by many newspapers for their print edition for community press releases. Exceptions are made on a case-by-case basis.

  • Nonprofit groups: Announcements of events, regular meetings, fundraisers.
  • For-profit groups: Announcements of significant events to raise money for charitable causes; other announcements = paid advertisements.
  • Groups and clubs with limited memberships will generally be of less interest and have less news value than groups open to the public or taxpayer-supported groups.

What types of groups and clubs should consider submitting press releases?

  • Community groups
  • Senior citizens groups
  • Veterans groups
  • Church groups
  • Scouts
  • Family reunions
  • Standalone photos of 4- and 5-generation gatherings
  • Honor rolls
  • Birthdays of people 80 years old and older
  • High school reunions
  • Historical societies
  • Library news, including lists of new books
  • Fairs, bazaars
  • Adult Education
  • School news
  • Hospitals’ social news
  • College news (upcoming classes)
  • Granges
  • Support groups are now listed in Classifieds.

I work as the editor of the Special Sections department, which is a division of the Advertising department. Although Special Sections publishes over 65 newspaper supplements (mini magazines) each year, the timeliness of press releases precludes the publication of many of them. But the press releases that describe products or relay information regarding how-to do something, often make it into a Special Sections supplement. You can get an idea of the types of press releases Special Sections has published in the past by visiting and scrolling half-way down the page and on the right side you will see the link to Special Sections. The editorial content found in advertising supplements is often referred to as advertorial.

Each Special Sections supplement has a theme, ranging from weddings to health to outdoor recreation to home improvement, and more. Typical article length = 500 words. Try to grab the reader’s attention in the first paragraph. Skip the technical jargon. Examples of good editorial content include the “Top Ten Tips” and “Ask the Experts” types of articles.

According to the Newspaper Association of America, “consumers prefer to learn about products and services through advertising. Advertising becomes the knowledgeable salesperson missing from many stores today. Advertising helps educate and helps differentiate benefits from features.” What do you think?

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