You are here: COM Access > Drafting Advice
How to draft a good press release to be circulated by DMW
by PHIL. C. DAILLY
All these bits and pieces may give you the professional rudiments, but could never replace the services given by a good Press Relations (PR) or communications agency, and we can only suggest, if you have not already done so, to contact one, even if it is only for just one campaign.
Some general observations
Let's start with a few statistics:
- Journalists use the Web as their primary source of information, more than any other channel or even their personal network,
- Over 80% of journalists use the Internet to look up information,
- Over 90% of journalists prefer receiving press releases by e-mail. Next in line comes "snail mail" and finally the fax,
- 130 paper press releases out of 150, received by the editorial staff of a daily paper, end up in the waste bin because of lack of pertinence.
Your press release is part and parcel of a press communications strategy (reinforced or not by advertising).
Depending on the kind of event you wish to promote (targeting clients, prospective customers, opinion leaders, members of personnel, suppliers, the general public, etc.) you should make use of one of two kinds of press releases:
- either the message itself is sufficient,
- or it demands supplementary information, and this can be through:
- A press kit, should the event be complex (only to be sent if the journalist specifically asks for it),
- A press conference, should the event be ceremonial or solemn (institutional, political, etc.),
- A press reception in situ should the event require an on site organisation (e.g. new bottling method, contests, prize giving ceremonies, events featuring a celebrity, etc.).
On every occasion, you must distinguish the respective roles of the press release and the press kit.
The outline of a press release, be it either paper or electronic should remain the same, as it is the most apt to obtain the objectives required.
As a journalist receives dozens, if not hundreds of releases each day, he appreciates easy accessibility, attained by respecting his habits as far as the presentation and the style are concerned.
Make sure that your press release is presented, if possible, on only the front side of an A4 format page, with a good margin and using only one or two character fonts.
The layout should respect the following, in this order and starting from the top:
- At the top and on the left (or in the centre), your logo immediately shows the journalist where the press release is from.
- At the top and on the right, the date enables him to judiciously file the information you send.
- In the centre, the title "Press release " must be presented above the rest of your message. This indicates that it is not an ad, but rather contains precise information intended for the journalist.
- The optional addition of "Embargo" along with a date and time tells the journalist that the information should not be circulated before this moment of time in the future.
- Do not use greetings in your press release (Dear Sir, etc.) - go straight to the point as if you were making a public announcement.
- The title of the release should be in the centre, short, easy to understand, informative or incentive.
- A heading will resume, if necessary, the information to follow. If the title is long, use it as a heading (using two or three lines). Do not use capital letters, but prefer lower case letters, as they are easier to read. Always accentuate the capitals.
- The text in itself should be flush left or justified, covering two or three paragraphs. Use a classical font (Arial, Times, Universe, etc.), which is easy to read on computer screens. Opt for a type size of at least 10. Avoid italics, unsuitable for the Web. Do not underline words; the journalist will do this later. Try your best to follow the standard journalistic model: 25 lines of 60 characters, with approximately 1 500 characters per page.
- Do not add a conventional ending to your press release - it takes up space, has no use and interferes.
- At the bottom on the left, indicate the surname, first name and complete details of one person only for press contact (telephone number with convenient times for contact, fax, e-mail, post address). Do not add several people to contact in the attempt to be more efficient - this could confuse the journalist and deter him from contacting you. And, of course, the person to contact must be the most available and the most apt to give further information concerning your event.
- The contents of your press release (title, heading and text) must answer the famous questions: And it must also only cover one event.
- The title and / or heading should, as far as possible, cover the majority of answers to these questions.
- As regards the attractive title, this should whet the reader's appetite and arouse his curiosity. It should incite suspense, interrogation or shock.
- In each and every case, the title and heading should catch the reader's attention, enticing them to continue reading until the end of the release.
- Likewise, the heading and text must respect the hierarchy of importance of the various elements of information, starting with the most important and ending with the least important, as the reader's interest dwindles with time.
Two sorts of text can exist:
- That which solemnly lists the facts using an almost telegraphic style. This manner of presenting has the advantage of being clear, and leaving the journalist freedom to follow it up in his own style.
- That which the journalist could copy and paste, thus facilitating his work. This solution entails the risk of you shortening your publication (although don't forget that news bulletins are read first). If you choose this solution, never attempt to imitate the style of the journalist in question, as this may annoy get their back up.
- Try to adapt the various elements concerned in order of importance, depending on the market segment targeted. The installation of a new piece of machinery to be used in the production of low-fat yoghurt will not particularly be of interest to the readers of women's lifestyle magazine!
- If the final element of information is the least important, the conclusion of your text could sum up the most important points of your message. A good tip is to do this in the form of a question in a future tense!
As far as the style of writing is concerned, opt for a journalistic style, i.e.:
- Avoid negative expressions;
- Avoid wordplay - what you find funny may not automatically appeal to others;
- Put forward one idea per sentence;
- Only use the third person (avoid I, you, we);
- Avoid using the passive;
- Should you say the same thing, do it without repeating yourself;
- Avoid very long or bombastic sentences (periphrasis, subordinate clauses, complicated figures of speech, etc.);
- Write in a simple syntactic style that is easy to understand;
- Go straight to the point; be precise and uncomplicated (avoid neologisms, unexplained abbreviations, ambiguous or obscure words, regional expressions, etc.);
- Help the reader visualise thanks to original yet consensual comparisons;
- In a nutshell: be concise, clear and precise.
And, of course, make no grammar, spelling or typing mistakes!
Once finished, put it to one side and then ask others to read and re-read it. If they find it good, it's ready to be sent.
You can enhance your press release with images such as photos and videos, providing they enhance the main arguments of your message.
However, never accompany the release with a letter of introduction, a press review or small present of any sort.
You can now send DMW your press release by e-mail! They will look after its translation, storage and circulation to thousands of journalists throughout the world, according to their requirements, and yours.
Processed in this way, your press release will satisfy everyone - be it the journalists, the readers, the public and … yourself!
Please note that DMW can write your press release for you.