Are you interested in getting your event or announcement featured in the editorial section of a publication? Do you know how to go about getting this kind of publicity? Your best bet is to learn how to write a press release.
As newsrooms continue to shrink (newspaper newsroom employment fell 57% between 2008 and 2020. – Pew Research), editors have fewer reporters to investigate stories. However, these publications still want to cover what’s happening. If you learn how to write an article following standard journalistic style, it is very likely that the publication will include your piece.
No, you won’t be paid. No, there is guarantee that the story will run. But you can increase the chances that yours will be published by following a few simple rules.
Learn how to write a press release that will get printed
Only submit what is newsworthy
A press release is not an advertisement. With an ad you pay for space to promote your business. Maybe you’re having a big sale, are carrying a new line or have changed your store hours. These are all topics for an ad.
A press release, on the other hand, is informational. Upon receiving your press release, an editor will determine if the information is newsworthy. How do they do this? There are five factors of newsworthiness. If your story fits at least two of them, it will likely be judged newsworthy.
Your job is to think like an editor. Submit too many press releases that are not newsworthy and you will lose your credibility with that publication. This will make them far less likely to give subsequent submissions any attention.
Write newsworthy content that follows the inverted pyramid style
Learning to write a press release well takes careful thought. Before you sit down to start writing, ask yourself:
- What is the subject of this article?
- What do I want the reader to know?
- Answer the five key questions: who, what, where, when and why?
Include the most newsworthy information at the beginning of the story and less important information further down. If your story is longer than there is space available in the publication, the editor will likely cut from the bottom. By putting the most important information at the top, the crucial facts will remain even if the story gets cut.
Also, many people won’t read the story all the way to the end. They may only read the first couple of paragraphs. By placing the most important information first, they will, at a minimum, learn the key points.
Keep in mind that a press release is a news story, not an advertisement. Stick to the facts. Avoid words that are too salesy or spammy and avoid hyperbole. Your first goal is to convince editors that your story is worthy of valuable news space.
Include quotes from organizers and participants. Also, consider adding important facts and statistics, and always include attribution for these points. These elements will make the story more interesting, and are more likely to hold the reader’s interest.
Include a headline and a subhead. Try to keep each to one line and make sure they cover the key point of your story.
Limit your press release to 300-500 words, and always use a clear, basic typeface, double spaced, using black letters only. If there is more than one page, write “-more-” at the bottom of the page.
Provide contact information
If the editor has follow up questions, who should they contact? Designate a contact person who can answer questions and include the contact’s name, address, phone number, and email address with your submission.
Have artwork available
A photo will significantly increase the visibility of a story. A story without an image is easier to miss. Make sure your image is high quality with good lighting.
Formatting the press release
Help your credibility and increase the chances of being published by presenting your material in the standard press release format. In most cases you will want the story to be printed as soon as possible. Therefore, include the following at the very top:
FOR RELEASE: IMMEDIATELY UPON RECEIPT
However, if you don’t want the story to be made public yet, write “HOLD FOR RELEASE UNTIL ….” instead.
At the bottom, add five hash marks to indicate the end of the press release.
Sample press release format
FOR RELEASE: IMMEDIATELY UPON RECEIPT
Contact: Name, position, phone number, email address
[CITY,STATE] – Who, what, where, when, how, why.
“Quote with attribution.”
Was this “How to get free publicity” article helpful?
Newspapers and magazines are always looking for well-written content that will interest their readers. If your subject is of interest and you provide them with a well-written article that follows their rules, it is likely to be printed. Don’t limit yourself to the initial announcement of an event. Follow up with an article about how the event went, and be sure to provide photos. The more work you do, the easier you make it for the publication to want to print your materials.
Read our follow-up post How to Distribute A Press Release.