Press Releases that Work

Press release writing is, by far, my favorite type of writing gig.  There are a couple of things that make press releases succesful (and without them, your press release will end up in an editor's recycle bin).
Successful press releases require:
  • A newsworthy topic
  • Tight writing
  • The right press release format
  • Editorial contacts
A newsworthy topic is the most important factor in your press release's success.

Press releases announce news right off the bat.  Your first sentence should tell readers exactly what's going on and when it's happening.  For example, if I create a press release about Reconciliation in Iraq (I did, last year), my first sentence needs to read like this:

The Iraqi army, aided by U.S. soldiers, helped more than 30 people in Salah-ad Din Province clear their names of criminal charges March 30.

(This isn't to say an editor isn't going to change it; on this one, the DoD editors changed the first line, but no one in civilian media did.)

The newspaper isn't full of fluff - and your press release shouldn't be, either.

Take out all the extra words.  Before a date, don't use "on" - just say March 30.  Don't describe too much - keep it short and sweet so news readers can scan it.  If you've read a news article in the last sixty years, you'll know what I mean about tight writing.

If you expect editors to read your press release and consider it for publication, put it in press release format.

You can't just send a Word document to an editor and expect they'll know what it is.  Get a press release format, put your news in it and double- and triple-check it for any errors. 

Spam filters are tough - and editors get a lot of spam - so call before you send.

Editors get tons of junk email, just like you and I.  Study the paper's masthead (where they display a list of editors and journalists), find the editor for the section in which your press release belongs and pick up the phone. 

Explain what you'd like to send, how it will benefit their readers and ask if they'd like you to query (outline your press release and ask them if it's okay to send it) by email; sometimes they do and sometimes they don't.

What tips do you have for writing a successful press release?

"Morning News 2" image courtesy of Lusi at

© Angie Papple Johnston, 2010; if you are reading this anywhere but on or Gather, it's stolen.