How to write a news release
Getting your event, product or business featured in the media is a surefire way to get attention. Now, I wouldn’t recommend doing anything controversial to get noticed, but if you’re offering a unique service or product, or you have an event planned that would be of interest to the wider community, there’s an opportunity to get the media to report your story.
The first step, always, is to run your business well and get people talking about you. Journalists are part of the community, too, and word of mouth works on them as well. Keep in mind that these days, word of mouth often includes a strong social media presence.
Why send a news release?
A good old-fashioned news release still plays a role in getting the media’s attention. Journalists and producers are busy. The journalists are juggling multiple stories a day, and the producers are trying to keep track of pretty much everything going on in the city and beyond. Not an easy task. Media releases still work because newsrooms want stories to be easy to find. Sending a well-written news release to the right inbox at the right time has the chance to catch their attention. Here's a press release template you can use.
9 steps for writing a news release
- A catchy subject line. If your subject line sucks, they might not even click on the message. Ask yourself: What would be the first thing I would tell my best friend about this?
- Advisory, release or embargoed? Note at the top whether it’s a media advisory (letting them know about an upcoming event), a media release (letting them know about something that’s happened), or if it’s embargoed - if the information can’t be published until a certain date or time.
- A great headline. The headline of your news release should be like any you see in news stories: Not too long, it should let you know what the story is about while enticing you to read more.
- Copy that reads like an article. The body of your media release should read like a news article. Make it easy for the newsroom to see how the story could work for their platform. Keep it to one page, and make sure the grammar is flawless.
- Include contact information, and be ready to respond quickly if the media gets in touch! Newsrooms run on tight deadlines and if you don’t get back ASAP, you may miss your chance to be featured.
- Put the news release in the body of the email. If you only attach the news release as a PDF, there’s a chance they won’t take that extra step to click on the attachment. But still attach that PDF in case they want to print it out.
- Send it to the right inbox. Most newsrooms have an email dedicated to news releases and story tips, or a managing editor of some kind. Make sure the release gets to the right place.
- Send it at the right time. It’s best to send media releases first thing in the morning or in the early afternoon to give the journalists time to work on the story. Also, never send on Friday afternoons, evenings, or weekends when there’s less staff around.
- Keep the design simple. Feel free to include your branding but there’s no need to go overboard. The most important part is selling the story, not how fancy you can make the release look.
A note on language
Broadcast journalists don't like it when you call it a "press" release because they don't go to press (print). When communicating with a broad range of newsrooms that include broadcast platforms (radio, TV), stick to calling it a news release or media release.