No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money

Samuel Johnson

May 20, 2015

How to start your press release

Stuck on your press release? Read Rudyard Kipling

If you think you have a good story for the media, you will pitch it to them by means of a press release.

But how do you write a press release?

The first thing to bear in mind is that you are not writing it for the newspaper or website’s readership, but for a news editor. You are attempting to arouse the interest of the news editor in your story. Your press release is an invitation to them to put one of their reporters onto writing up your story.

The second thing to remember is that a news editor may well have 100 press releases to read every morning and it’s unlikely that they will want to devote more than 30 seconds to each one.

That means you have to whet their appetite for your story in 30 seconds. You do this in your first paragraph, the intro. That intro, in order that it doesn’t take more than 30 seconds of their time, shouldn’t really be more than 30 words long.

Those 30 words have a lot of work to do, in fact they must tell your whole story.

At this point, take a break and study these lines from a poem by Kipling:

 

I keep six honest serving-men

(They taught me all I knew)

Their names are What and Why and When

And How and Where and Who

 

Your press release must answer the what, why, when, how, where and who questions.

I know, it sounds daunting to have to answer six questions in only 30 words. How on earth can anyone be expected to do that?

It’s not as difficult as it seems. Here’s one I prepared earlier:

“Consett greengrocer Marcel Proust & Co has secured a grant to build a £20,000 extension to its Smith Street shop this year to meet increased demand.’’

That’s 26 words and it tells the reader what, why, when, how, where and who.

For the rest of the press release (the subject of future blogs) you elaborate on this information, putting the facts in decreasing order of importance, up to a limit of about 350 words.