7 Steps to Writing a Solid News Release

 In Public Relations, Small Business, Writing and Editing

There are few things more vexing than writing a useful news release – in other words, a news release that will be used. Lots of bad ones litter hard drives and waste baskets around the world. The good ones, however, find themselves used verbatim in newspapers and on websites every day.

But what makes a good news release? The secret is simple. It must have legitimate news to offer and it must present the news in a format that makes it easily understood.

By following these seven steps, you can write a news release that editors will be eager to use as ready-made content for their publications and websites.

There Must Be News to Report

News is a relative term. When deciding whether a news release is called for, the first question to ask yourself is, “Will anyone care?”

Not everyone will be interested to know that you hired a new employee this month. This type of low-value news is perfect for the business section of your local newspaper. But if one of your employees organized a drive within the community to provide hurricane-relief to a neighboring town, the odds have increased that an editor will actually use your story.

Now that you know you have legitimate news to report, you’re ready to start writing.

Begin with the Basics

Begin your news release with the date of release so editors will know they are not reading something from two weeks ago. Include your name and contact information so they will know where to direct their questions. Include a dateline to establish location. With “TALLAHASSEE, Fla.” written at the top, you can now refer to people, places and things as “local” without having to rewrite the name of the city.

The Inverted Pyramid

News stories are structured to include the most important pieces of information at the top, followed by less important stuff the further down you go.

The Lead

There are two ways to open your news release, either as a straight news story or as a feature. To begin your release like a straight news story, get right into the particulars with the first paragraph.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Jonathan B. Goode, an executive with Consolidated Companies Ltd., led a drive in mid-October to collect more than two tons of clothing, canned goods and household supplies for the residents of Panama City affected by Hurricane Michael.

To open your release like a feature story, tease the facts in the first paragraph, then fill them in with a “nut graf,” or the paragraph that contains the facts in a nutshell.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – An employee of Consolidated Companies Ltd. has led a drive to collect supplies for the residents of a neighboring town affected by Hurricane Michael.

Account executive Jonathan B. Goode led the effort in mid-October to collect more than two tons of clothing, canned goods and household supplies for residents of Panama City.

So far, you have told reporters about Mr. Goode’s effort to collect items to share with people in need. But if the news also includes delivery of the relief items that have been collected, the lead can be slightly recast.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Hurricane-relief supplies collected for residents of Panama City through an effort led by an employee of Consolidated Companies Ltd. will be delivered to Bay County shelters this Friday.

The more than two tons of clothing, canned goods and household supplies collected in mid-October during a drive led by Consolidated Account Executive Jonathan B. Goode will be delivered by multiple volunteers driving their personal vehicles to shelters in Panama City. The caravan will depart at 9 a.m. Friday, Oct. 26, from Consolidated’s offices at 1234 Corporate Park Drive.

After these leading facts – “who,” “what,” “when” and “where” – have been shared, other less-important but still-interesting facts – the “why” and the “how” – can be filled in, from the number of people who made donations to the floor space required to hold donated items. “Why” was Mr. Goode motivated to help people in dire need? “How” did he handle the logistics of getting the word out about the drive and convince his coworkers to help with collecting the donations and making donations of their own?

The Direct Quotation(s)

Now that the stage has been set with what took place (the hurricane-relief collection drive) and/or what is about to take place (the delivery of relief items), some human perspective needs to be given. There’s no better way to provide context than to allow the subject of the news release to speak.

A direct quotation gives Mr. Goode a forum to discuss things such as the importance of giving back to a community in need. A direct quotation from Mr. Goode’s supervisor or the company president provides a forum for the boss to sing the praises of the overall good nature of the company’s employees.

The Backstory and What To Do With It

It always bears repeating to lead your news release with the news. If there is a backstory or some history that must be told to help the reader understand the reasons behind current circumstances, save it for later in the release.

Writing a Straightforward Headline

When writing a headline, remember to keep it short and simple. Don’t repeat the entire lead. Instead, pare it down. If the drive to collect hurricane-relief items is the news, then this headline tells the story.

Drive collects two tons of hurricane relief

If the delivery of the goods is what needs to be reported, then try this one.

Hurricane relief supplies set for delivery Friday morning

By following these seven steps to determine the value of your news and how to organize it, you’re on your way to writing a release that will appeal to editors as ready-made content.

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