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Composing a News Release

7 Mar
Notes from Chapter 5 of Public Relations Writing and Media Techniques by Dennis L. Wilcox.

A news release, or press release, serves as a means to get news of an event, product, idea, etc. to a reporter with the goal of being published. Editors receive countless amounts of new releases each day not only by traditional mail (dubbed “snail mail”) but also by email. Electronic distributors such as PR Newswire and Business Wire also have a plethora of information found in news releases. Sending news releases is very popular and is also a lot cheaper than buying advertisements. Many organizations opt in to sending news releases because the public feels that its information is more credible in a news column than an ad. Out of all the releases that make it to the office of an editor, 55-97% go unused. It is critical for one’s news release to stand out from all the other releases and not just blur together with the rest of them.

3 Steps to Aid in Making a News Release Rise Above the Pile:

  1. Follow a standardized formula
  2. Provide information that will interest readers
  3. Be timely

The Questions That a News Release Should Answer:

  • What is the subject?
  • Who is the target audience?
  • Who will care about this information?
  • How will readers benefit from this information?
  • What is the purpose of the organization?

The Traditional News Release

Should be on an 8.5 by 11 inch multipurpose paper.

Colored paper should generally be avoided.

  • The news release should stand out because of the content, not because of the color of the paper.
  • Bright colors, as well as dark colors, are hard to read and may be irritating to an editor.
  • If you must use color, the author recommends using pastels.

There should be a two inch margin at the top of the page and 1.5 inch margins on the bottom, right and left.

  • If a header is used, begin writing two inches below the header.

Should be double spaced.

  • Allows an editor to perform quick edits.
  • Allows corrections, notes, etc.

10 or 12 pt font is preferred and legible fonts such as Courier and Times New Roman are ideal.

Use AP Style.

Sentences or paragraphs should not be split between pages.

To indicate that the release is longer than one page, place the word -MORE- at the bottom of the page.

A slug, or a short description that will aid in distinguishing the release if pages get separated, should be placed on pages after the first.

To indicate that the release has ended place the word -END-, -30-, -###-.

The E-mail/Internet News Release

Should be single spaced.

  • The only time it should be double spaced is when it is sent to an online distributor as mentioned above.

Do not leave an open hyphen at the end of a line.

Should typically be shorter than 200 words.

Four or Five paragraphs in length.

The editor should not have to scroll down to view the entire release.

Five Basic Types of New Releases

  • Announcements- new products, promotions, sales reports, anniversaries and the like.
  • Spot Announcements- informs public of a happening that affected the organization.
  • Reaction Release- news of event or situation that has effect on organization.
  • Bad News- can be buried in a news story so readers do not consider it to be a “cover up” for a mistake. It is best to confront an issue immediately in order to prevent the media from making up stories or being informed of rumors. The worst thing that a PR representative can do is to refuse to comment on a situation.
  • Local News- most common. Local releases are those which include names of locals or contain information that is locally significance.

Components of a News Release

  • Letterhead- A section at the top of the release that includes the name, address, phone number, fax number, and website of an organization.
  • Contacts- Name, title, phone number, fax number, and email address of the person who wrote the release.
  • Headline- Title of the news release. If the font size of the body is 12 pt, the headline is usually 14 or 16 pt font.
  • Dateline- The name of the city in which the news is taking place. Must be in all caps and is usually followed by the date.
  • Lead Paragraph- Basic details of the release. Includes the five W’s and H, as well as the “so what?”
  • Body of Text- Written in inverted pyramid style so that the editor can find the most important details quickly.

Reading notes from Public Relations Writing and Media Techniques by Dennis Wilcox.

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