Once you know your angle, begin writing your release in this order:
– Whom to contact for more information: At the top of your release, include the name of a knowledgeable person who can be contacted for information, along with a telephone number for reaching that person directly and without any time-consuming voice mail interfaces.
– When the news can be released: In rare cases, releases are sent with a line describing an embargo, or an instruction not to release the news until a certain date or time. Embargoes are unnecessary for all but the most sensitive news announcements, which probably require the help of a publicity pro. Instead, notify the media that the news is For Immediate Release by typing those words above your headline.
– A headline: Your headline should be active (in other words, it should include a verb), succinct (it should fit on no more than two lines), and benefit-oriented (it should tell what’s in the news for the media audience not what’s in it for you).
– A dateline: The meat of the news release begins with the name of the city and the abbreviation of the state from which the release originated, followed by the date the release was issued.
– Clear presentation of the facts: Journalism 101 prevails in news release writing. Tell who, what, where, when, why, and how (called the five Ws plus how) in what is known as an inverted pyramid style. Here’s what that means: Tell your news in the first sentence and pack your most important supporting facts into the first few paragraphs. This allows an editor to chop the entire end portion, if necessary to save space, and still retain the vital information.
– Quotes: Simple announcements don’t require quotes, but if your news benefits from meaningful comments from top management or credible customers or industry leaders, include and clearly identify the sources for one or two quotes.
– Boilerplate information: End your release with a short paragraph, called a boilerplate, that summarizes information about your company. This paragraph should tell your business name, what your business does, a few points about how your business is unique, a line about your history (when your business was founded, your ownership, and other key facts), and a few words about the size and scope of your business.
A release from a fictional private school might end with the following paragraph: Amazing Preparatory School is a private academy graduating 100 collegebound students annually. Founded in 1975, the school is located on the grounds of the historic Smith Estate, where students from throughout the world live in dormitories or commute from the nearby metropolitan area. The school is a member of the Private Schools Association and the International Study Institute.
– No more than two pages: Print your news release on 81⁄2-x-11-inch white paper. (Advice for electronic news releases follows.) Use wide margins and one-and-a-half or double-spacing. If your news runs more than one page, don’t print both sides of the same sheet, as editors frequently tear off and forward only the first part of the release for production.