Press Release Writing & Submission Best Practices

press release writing and submission best practises

Press release submissions should be one of the communication options in the public relations arsenal of a business or nonprofit. One of the advantages of submitting a press, or news, release is that the business itself frames its story. Another is that the same story has the potential of being picked up by several media outlets. The biggest drawback is that there is no guarantee that it will be published, unlike a business profile that fills purchased (advertising) space. This is the skinny on increasing the odds that a news release will be published. Newspapers and magazines that don’t pick up your news release don’t usually tell you why, but the following information could help you rethink your current practices in a new light.

WRITE LIKE A REPORTER

  • Be selective. Publications that print press releases are allocating free space, so don’t submit one about every piece of news you have to share. Wait for something significant. Examples of newsworthy topics include: moving to a new location; hiring a pivotal employee; winning an award; or reaching a major goal, milestone or anniversary.
  • Be concise. Focus on one piece of business news. Add a few sentences of general information, but don’t overdo it. When you have a draft, go back and remove every unnecessary word.
  • Use third person. As the “reporter,” it’s OK to quote yourself or someone else, but use quotes selectively, and correctly, to add credibility.
  • Think of the audience. Include every piece of information that the reader should know, and use vocabulary aimed at your least knowledgeable reader.
  • Be polished. Proofread and correct your press release to make it perfect before you submit it. When those who review your release see one mistake, they may not read any further and are unlikely to make space for it.

USE THE CORRECT STYLE GUIDE

You may use another style guide for other forms of written communications; but, for press releases, “The Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law” is the guide to use. If you ignore its protocols, the editor reviewing your press release may decide that it’s too much work to edit what you’ve written to make it conform to the correct standards. The Associated Press updates its stylebook annually.

PROVIDE A PHOTO

A press release is more likely to be picked up if it’s accompanied by a photo that adds value to the story. Include one or more persons in your photo, even if the story is about a building or piece of equipment. When staging a photo, ask people to wear solid colors, remove name badges and keep the background as distraction-free as possible. Along with the photo, send a caption listing the name of each person and how they are positioned. Give the name of the professional photographer, if there is one; otherwise, make it clear that the business is supplying the photograph. The publication wants to be able to attribute the photo correctly with information you provide.

DO YOUR RESEARCH

Some newspapers accept both press releases and photos as attachments, while others accept photos as attachments but want press releases embedded in emails. Research each publication’s preferred method of receiving news releases electronically. If the email address for submission goes to an individual, rather than a general email mailbox, the contact may change. Watch for indications that your press release is not getting through to the correct person. Most publications do not acknowledge receipt.

THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX

When considering where to submit press releases, local daily newspapers and regional and state business magazines come to mind first. Depending on the nature of your news and how broad its appeal, also consider submitting your press release to local chambers of commerce (which usually have a newsletter that includes member news) community newsletters, and alumni and industry publications.

IMPLEMENT STRATEGIES TO INCREASE PICK-UP FREQUENCY

While there is no certainty that your press release will be published, newspapers, business magazines and newsletters devote some of their space to concise news releases that: use the appropriate (AP) style, are accompanied by a photo that is captioned and attributed correctly and is submitted using the preferred email format. If you haven’t written and submitted a news release, or if you have submitted news releases without much success, incorporating some of this “skinny” on submitting your news may increase its likelihood of being published.

Betty Andrews is a freelance business writer whose clients often hire her to write and submit press releases. Her Keene-based freelance writing business, Betty Andrews Writing Services, helps businesses and nonprofits increase credibility and visibility through three services: writing, editing and proofreading.

Contact Betty at betty-andrews.com.

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