Writing a News Release

Wednesday, May 15, 2002

By Maria Swan

A news release is one of the written tactics to get information about your company or yourself out to the media in a ready-to-publish form. News releases are judged based on possible interest to the audience, its news value and timeliness.

News releases are a way to succinctly get your information out to the public. News releases should be short (try to keep them to one page), and should contain all the vital facts: the name of your organization, its purpose, key contacts, etc.

There are seven basic elements to writing a news release:

Logo: Your logo, if your organization has one, usually goes in the top left-hand corner. Your logo is a visual reminder of your organization, so you should use it on all materials you distribute to the public.

Headline: Your headline is the first thing an editor will read. You want to draw the reader in, using your headline as a "hook." Your headline should be informative, inviting and active.

Date: Date your news releases for the day you plan to distribute them. News releases with last week's date on them could be mistakenly be perceived as "old news."

Lead: Your lead is your first sentence of your news release. Like the headline, your lead has to be both catchy and informative. The first paragraph should give enough information for the reader to understand what the rest of the news release is about.

Body: Your body paragraphs should answer the questions -- who, what, when, where, why. These are called the five Ws of journalism.

Who - Who is the release about?

What - What is the topic or problem that this release addresses?

When - When did the event take place or when will it take place?

Where - Where did the events take place or where will it take place?

Why - Why did the event happen? As a result of something or on its own?

Contact information: Always include information telling readers how they can reach you if they have questions. The most basic contact information should be a name and a phone number. You may also choose to include a second number (home, office, school, cell phone or pager), a fax number, an e-mail address or a Web page address.

End delineation: You must show the reader of the news release that they have come to the end. There are several ways you can indicate the end of a news release. For example: "###," "## END ##," or "END." If you must continue on to a second page, you should place a "slugline" at the top of the second page, consisting of a one word description and date, i.e., Saint Francis 3/3/02.

It is very important to address the news release to a specific person, whether you mail, fax or email the releases. If it isn't, it might find its way into the newsroom recycling bin.

With today's technology, a great method of getting your information out is email. However, make sure the person you're emailing is okay with receiving the news release just over email and not over the fax, too. Some people may prefer to receive the information both ways so that if they are not at their email, your information via fax still makes it into the newsroom.

Email can be a great way to target the individual you want to send a news release to. You can guarantee that the editor or reporter will get your information -- it can stop the problem of wondering if they ever got the information.

Another important thing to remember if you are emailing your news release as an attachment to your email is if the receiver can read your attachment. For example, some businesses use Microsoft Word and some use Corel WordPerfect. One way to make sure all can view your news release is to both attach the file to the email and copy and paste it into the body of the email.

Another plus to emailing the news release for the editor or reporter is that they can usually copy and paste the information into their word processing program electronically instead of re-typing the information.

It is also very important to carefully proof the news release, especially phone numbers.

If you have the proper format, use the proper methods of getting your information across and if the release contains newsworthy information, your event/information will have greater likelihood of making it in the news.

Maria Swan is the public relations coordinator at Saint Francis Medical Center in Cape Girardeau. Swan graduated from the University of Missouri with a bachelor of journalism degree. Previously, she worked for Fleishman-Hillard in St. Louis and at KOMU-TV in Columbia, Mo.

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