Guidlines for Writing your Own Press Releases

Style Guidelines

• Newsworthiness

A press release must be both newsworthy and timely. Potential subjects for a press release include the launching of a new product or service, the expansion of your business, a recent event or organizational milestone, or a noteworthy–and well-evidenced–trend or development within your industry.

• Tone

Avoid hype. Maintain an objective, rather than a promotional, tone. Do not refer directly to the reader as “you.” Avoid the use of “I” or “we” except within direct quotations. Avoid sales clichés and limit the use of industry jargon. Write clearly and concisely. Proofread the first draft of your press release, make necessary revisions, and proofread again.

• Structure

– Headline

Your headline must grab a reader’s attention. To do so, it should be brief, uncluttered, and worded in active voice. The headline should convey the essence of your press release in a single sentence. Its message should be compelling, but not grandiose; suggestive, but not ambiguous; precise, but not exhaustive.

– Subhead

The subhead functions as a one-paragraph summary of your press release. It should not be the same as your lead paragraph.

– Lead paragraph

The opening sentence and lead paragraph are the most important parts of the body of a press release. They should be energetic and informative, and communicate the “who, what, where, when, why, and how” of your message. The lead paragraph has to persuade an editor and/or general reader to continue reading. A press release is usually accepted or discarded based on its opening paragraph.

– Second paragraph, etc.

Write each paragraph of your press release with space restrictions in mind. In other words, a news editor should be able to cut off your press release after any given paragraph without omitting the most important elements of your message. With each subsequent paragraph, elaborate on the main message of your press release by adding tertiary information or descriptive details.

– Conclusion

A press release may conclude with a brief “About Us” paragraph and/or a pitch line containing contact information.

Formatting Guidelines

• Headline

The headline must be written in Title Case and should be no longer than 80 characters, including spaces. Do not use ALL CAPS.

• Dateline

The body of the press release must begin with a dateline in the following order: City, State, Month, Day, Year. For the date, use the date on which the press release will be distributed. For example:

Los Angeles, CA, January 1, 2009 – This is the opening sentence of the press release…

• Body

In general, one should avoid using single-sentence paragraphs. However, in some cases they can be useful for separating or emphasizing important information. Separate each paragraph with a single line break and each sentence with a single space.

An online press release should be about 300 to 400 words, including the head, subhead, and conclusion. A length of more than 800 words may inhibit press release distribution.

• Conclusion

Provide the name of a contact person and the phone number and/or email address where he or she can be reached. Use the symbol “###” on a separate line to indicate the end of the press release.

• Other formatting tips

Do not embed HTML in the press release. To avoid formatting problems, any graphs or charts should be sent as attached PDFs or image files. Do not use forced line breaks or non-standard characters or tables.

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