Freelance writing - press releases

Press releases, for me, are the most fun to write.  I get to put on a journalist hat, get quotes and write news.

When I was in Iraq, I was our battalion's journalist.  I interviewed influential Iraqis, attended all the important security conferences and even had lunch in Sadaam's family palace twice (and in his birthday palace once).  That was all hard news - and I would get about an hour (maybe two) to write the press release/story release afterward.


One of the many granite/marble stairways in Sadaam's birthday palace
 
 
 
The posh extravagance of Sadaam's ballroom in his family palace


No shower, no air conditioning... just me and a government laptop in a bunker.

Thankfully, I'm done with all that now - but I still love writing press releases.  Maybe it's because they're my highest-paying gigs (related to the amount of work they entail); maybe it's because they remind me of being a hardcore journalist in body armor and carrying a rifle and a pistol.

Either way - I love them.  And there are ingredients which make a press release a smashing success... so here are a few to get you started.
  • Tight writing
  • Strategic placement of the climax of the story
  • Sufficient background information
  • Quotes, quotes and more quotes
Tight writing in press releases is mandatory.  It's news, not fluff (even if it's a fluffy topic and you've been hired to turn it into a press release, it's news).  No added words that aren't absolutely necessary - even omit the word "on" when you can.  (For example, "Gwyneth Paltrow's head exploded April 15, showering the crowd with feathers and cotton candy."  That's how you write a date in a press release.)

Strategic placement of the climax goes a long way - and you want to start your story with the end.  Cover the who, what, where and how all in the first paragraph if possible.  Deal with the why in the rest of the press release.

Sufficient background information goes in the body of your press release, and of course, it will vary with each story you're covering. 

Quotes add validity to a press release.  Sometimes it doesn't matter whose quotes you're using - as long as you're using them.  This, too, will depend on the subject of your press release.

Here are a couple links to my press releases the Department of Defense and the U.S. Army picked up to give you a feel for what grabs the news media's attention:
Now, to give you a feel for a civilian press release, which you'll likely be doing:
Aside from knowing how to write them, you've got to know how to submit them.  It's a lengthy process and you have to establish contacts here and there along the way - and I'll cover that in another post.

Do you have any tips on writing press releases?  What works for you, and what doesn't?  Do you convince your clients they need them, or do they generally already know?  Please share your thoughts - and leave a link to your own blog or website below!

1 comments:

This is a really awesome post... plus I didn't even realze, even though I did, just how much you got to experience while over there. You could/should write a book.

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