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A Press Release Is a News Story. Here’s How to Write a Good One.

Apr 1, 2021 Beth Monaghan

The press release originated as a news story. In the old days the idea was that newspapers could pick them up and run it like they might an AP story. That doesn’t happen anymore. The press release has lost ground because it’s become marketing collateral. No journalist is going to lift language riddled with buzz words and industry acronyms. A good press release should read like a news story. So keep your AP Style guide handy! 

The Format

Inductive, not deductive reasoning. Begin with the most important information and work your way out to the least. This is also known as the inverted pyramid of news writing. Why? We assume we’ve lost your short attention span before you get to the end. 

The Components

Headline: This answers the question: Why should someone read this? It should communicate the core message of the release in as few words as possible. No flourish. No adverbs. No jargon. Only facts.

Subhead: This provides a bit more information: context to the headline, but it is not always required. Again, stick to facts only.

Lead paragraph: Answers the 5Ws: Who, what, when, where and why. Clear language. 

Second paragraph: A little more information about what’s contained in the first paragraph.

Quote: This adds insight and leans on the spokesperson’s expertise. This is the one place where you get to leave the realm of facts and add a little hyperbole. But make it interesting! What does this person know that others should? Avoid the “I’m excited” quote. It says nothing. We hope you’re excited because you’re putting out a press release. 

Additional paragraphs: These are reserved for information such as product details, a person’s biography, event logistics, etc. 

Boilerplate: The “About Us” statement with a link to the organization’s website. For example, Inkhouse’s is this: 

About Inkhouse:

Inkhouse is an integrated PR agency for innovative thinkers, creators and leaders who believe in the power of stories to effect positive change. We bring new ideas to market. We were founded in 2007 and have grown to an agency of more than 100 people across four offices. Find us in the real world in Boston, New York, San Francisco and Seattle and in the digital one at www.inkhouse.com.

Ready to publish? Here’s our checklist:
  • Proof it. We recommend reading it out loud to someone else, including the punctuation.
  • Double-check approvals on quotes and third-parties mentioned in the copy.
  • Proof for typos and AP style.
  • Insert hyperlinks (and know that wire services limit the number you can add, so choose wisely).
  • Check links to additional resources (videos, photos, graphics). TEST them.
  • Choose and mark an embargo date, if you’re using one. Be exact. For example, if you’re using midnight, go with 12:01 am for clarity).

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