A PR pro weighs in on press releases


Carolyn Branton

Carolyn Branton has been taking over the public relations and event planning scene in Chicago for nearly a decade. She headed the event planning for the annual fundraiser for the Chicago Public Library Foundation. She’s also worked for Devry University in public affairs. She’s managed media relations for fortune 500 corporations and now finds a true passion in creating attention for civic and non-profit organizations.

As a former news reporter, I can tell you press releases become white noise in the world of news gathering. This week our guest blogger is a PR pro from Chicago and she is breaking down the secrets to writing a great press release in 3 easy steps.

A press release is a PR  pro’s best friend, or at least one of them. It is an essential part of any media strategy, and one of the many tools used to communicate messages, announcements and story ideas to journalists.

Writing a press release can be a somewhat daunting task—trying to sort and prioritize the information while making a compelling case that will make someone else care just as much about your story as you. To top it off, journalists are bombarded with hundreds of pitches and press releases daily, so making yours stand out with the best content is crucial.

Sounds exhausting, right?

Here are three tips for writing a great press release that will make your company/client stand out to journalists looking for story ideas.

  1. Don’t bury the lead!
  • The beginning of the press release is the most important. Start with an engaging headline to catch the readers’ attention that makes them want to know what will happen next.
  • ALWAYS include the most important information in the first paragraph. You never want the reader digging through the entire release to find out the basic details of what you are announcing or promoting. Answer the Who, What, When, Where in the lead paragraph.
  • Follow-up your lead with data, facts, history and quotes.
  • Give a human element. Is your organization helping build a new hospital wing? Find a patient who will benefit from it and tell the reporters you’ll have them ready for interviews.

2.   Tell them how to find you!

  • Don’t make your reader search for additional information. Make it easy and provide links to your organization or client’s website, photos, videos or other relevant supporting documents.

3.   Get to the point!

  • I never put a page limit on a press release, but I do try to keep it succinct. Journalists don’t have the time to read through pages and pages of information so try to include only the most pertinent details.