How to Write a News Release That Journalists Will Use
A good news release should be one that can be dropped unaltered into a newspaper and be indistinguishable from a news story written by a journalist. In other words, it should be written in the same style as a journalist writes news stories.
You’d be surprised how many people send news releases to journalists in the mistaken believe that the release contains news. In fact, most news releases contain no news at all. Journalists know this. And they do not enjoy having their time wasted. You have to grab their attention immediately.
The first sentence or two of your news release is called the “intro” or “lead”. It is the most important part of a news release and it is where you put whatever is most newsworthy and most attention grabbing in what you have to say. You can’t write a good news release without a good lead, and you can’t write a good lead until you’ve decided what’s important. You have to judge what is most important about what you want to say and it has to be the most significant and most interesting aspect of your subject.
Now that you’ve worked out what your IITSWEB lead is, and this is your first most newsworthy point, you need to follow the release with your second most newsworthy point, and then your third most newsworthy point. Your least newsworthy point is your last sentence. You should write your news release so that if you cut out the last sentence or two, your release will still make sense.
Make sure you write in a “news style” using the sort of short, simple words and sentences journalists would use. Your story must sound like something that might appear in a newspaper, on the radio or on television.
Most news stories include direct quotes from an “authority” involved in the story. News media outlets like to have direct quotes because they help to “humanise” a story, but don’t be surprised if you have to create one. Writing quotes is actually an ideal opportunity for you to incorporate key messages which will help your news release get “picked up” by the news media.
In terms of length, most news releases should be no longer than two A4 pages with double or one and a half line spacing. You don’t have to fill both sides – most times less is more. Just write enough to convince the journalist there is a real news story there.
The following news release writers’ checklist is a useful guide to help you stay on track:-
1. Only include information in your news release that journalists will regard as news. For example:
- is the story of interest to readers unconnected with my client? and/or
- does it affect the lives of the target media’s audiences? and/or
- does it have a local angle? and most importantly,
- does it read/sound like the sort of news I see in newspapers and see/hear on the tv and radio?
2. Make sure that the news release is not only news, but also delivers key messages to your target audience
3. Write an attention grabbing headline that smacks of newsworthiness. Make sure you have put the most newsworthy item into the first couple of sentences
4. Use short, simple words and sentences journalists would use to make it easier for them to pick up on key messages
5. Write the news release on A4 paper, no longer than two sides with double or one and a half line spacing.
6. Include all contact details and a date the release was distributed , stating whether it is for immediate release or include an embargo date and time.