What to include (and not include) on your press release

All writers start with the basics; write what you know, be clear and concise, tell the story. That means answering the who, what, why, when, where, how. Sounds simple, right?

As a journalist who has turned to ‘the dark side’, I’ve read a lot of press releases and I’ve seen some things *stares blankly into the distance*. As a result, I’ve learnt to drink cold coffee, stay awake during long late-night meetings and write a press release that doesn’t end up getting spiked (which in this context means satisfyingly deleted).

So here’s some advice, the majority of which will be obvious to many of you out there, but evidently some of these things are worth pointing out…

Location, Location, Location

Before making the switch to PR, I’d answer a call on deadline to be met with the squeaky voice of some perky junior PR exec and they’d reel off some spiel about “a really interesting story” concerning something completely irrelevant to our patch. Curiously enough, if the publication features the name of a town or county in its title, it’s probably because it covers that area and isn’t in the least bit interested in events occurring 150 miles away. Funny that.

Use pics well

For the love of whatever deity or values you hold highly, please include captions for images and only attach those which are relevant to the story. I was once sent a photo of a child holding what I could only assume was a prized vegetable, attached to a press release about nothing of the sort. Seriously, no explanation, no name for the child, no context whatsoever.

That’s when you actually get images in the first place. Don’t even get me started on those emails which read ‘high resolution images available upon request’ – with no images attached at all. If you have some images, attach them to the press release or send them a Dropbox link and the journalist will soon tell you if they need higher res. If you’ve got a portrait and a landscape option, you’re basically a hero.

Drop ‘delighted’

A true sign of a lazily-written quote is the use of the word ‘delighted’, especially when speaking about something relatively mundane. Go ahead, Google “delighted” and click news; there’s an awful lot of people going around being delighted.

Giant cheques

Don’t.

Capping random WORDS

Firstly, I hate the use of all caps, unless it’s a conscious design decision. I always read caps as SHOUTING, so if you’re using a lot of all caps in your press release you are in fact shouting at the reader like an American car salesman. The capping up of random words is also guaranteed to give journalists a crazed eye twitch.

Be patient

Journalists, or what’s left of them, are very busy, overworked and jumped up on caffeine. They may bite. Due to constant redundancies they are probably each doing the jobs of about five people: senior reporter, sub editor, photographer, entertainments reporter, digital reporter – and unfortunately in this plane of existence it’s physically impossible to be in more than one place at once. So please don’t get arsy with them when they can’t cover your event in person or if they don’t immediately use your press release or can’t attend your press trip. Instead, be sure to send things at least two weeks in advance, or ASAP if your story is about something which has just happened – if you can squeeze enough information out of your client!

Say thank you

People seem to have this feeling of entitlement when they speak to journalists, who are in no way obligated to tell your story or sort your life out. If a journalist does manage to spare some time in their hectic day to actually use your press release, a little thank you goes a long way.

Written by Kirsty Nelms, account manager for marketing agency Purple Sprout