Five tips for writing an effective press release (for students and emerging professionals).

I am nearing the end of my first semester in the Public Relations – Corporate Communications graduate program at Seneca. I’ve since learned that a press release is one of the most important PR tools we can use.

But they’re tricky to get right. Especially for students and new practitioners.

That’s why I’ve compiled five beginner tips for writing an effective press release:

  1. Keep your lead short and compelling: A good lead sentence should never exceed 30 words. So, don’t try to cram all five W’s and the H in the first sentence; instead, prioritize what should go first according to relevance and context.
  2. Avoid hype: Remember, you are not the journalist. Your job is to provide the facts only. Journalists do not have a lot of time, so be sure to get to the point quickly and avoid meaningless jargon.
  3. Remember the inverted pyramid rule: All important information should be at the top and the least important information at the bottom. Why? Many journalists will not read the whole press release. Yes, they are that busy.
  4. Be concise: Forget the essay writing you did in university. The press release is meant to be as short as possible – one or two pages (try to stick to one).
  5. Learn Canadian Press (CP) style: If you’re a Canadian writer or editor, then you’re probably familiar with CP style. It is the style guide for Canadian journalists and PR practitioners. In the PRCC program at Seneca, we lose a whopping 10 per cent from our grade for every three CP style errors in our writing. My CP stylebook is my bible, and it should be yours, too. You can order the new 18th edition here.
Press Release Template NP

Standard press release template. Image by the nouveau professional.

Learning how to craft a good press release is essential. In the professional world, sometimes you will have as little as 20 or 30 minutes to churn out a press release. The only way to hone your craft is to practice, practice, practice.

If you’re still unsure, here is a great video explaining the press release in more detail:

PS. If you’re new to public relations, I suggest following PR Daily and Spin Sucks for all things PR.

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