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Writing Press Releases (part one!)

Most of the news we read, see or hear in the media every day, starts life as, or includes content from press releases in some shape or form.

Whether they inspire the story, provide a different perspective on it, give the right of reply, or add a position statement, they remain at the heart of the public relations toolbox.

Over the next three blog posts, I’ll cover some basic tips and advice on writing press releases, starting (appropriately enough) with introductions.

Every story must have a beginning, a middle and an end. The trick is getting all of them – or at least a flavour of all three – into one sentence.

Traditionally, the beginning of a news story (and that’s essentially what a press release is) has to cover the five W’s:

  • Who the story is about
  • What is happening (or has happened)
  • When , Where and Why

So, that single sentence of 20-30 words (ideally) has a lot of heavy lifting to do, in covering the essential facts, as well as being engaging and lively copy.

This also illustrates why a press release has to have an angle – a single idea that provides a hook and gives the narrative shape.

Imagine trying to sum up the entire plot of a complicated movie like one of my favourites, The Third Man, with all its twists, turns, character points and themes in just one line (try this synopsis for starters: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Third_Man#Plot).

But key events from the plot or elements of it can be encapsulated in a sentence covering all five W’s. For example:

Writer Holly Martins began a personal investigation into the mysterious death of his childhood friend, Harry Lime, in Vienna, today.

Not exactly Graham Greene but you get the idea: 20 words long and, at 132 characters, just the right size for a Tweet, too.

Keep an eye out for part 2.

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