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The Princess and the Press:
How to write a news release that will make you
the belle of the ball

By Kirsten Cowan

Everyone who has struggled to get media attention for their organization can find themselves lost in a romantic daydream. A dashing prince (or princess) with a press card wedged in their crown, swoops down on your organization and catapults it into the national spotlight following a fabulous TV appearance, feature article or guest spot. Your vital cause, your innovative products, are on everyone's lips, and you live happily ever after, a sparkling media darling.

In reality of course, the road to media attention has more to do with a skillful pen than a magic wand. How can you zero in on what is newsworthy about your organization and communicate that to those who have the nation's ears (and eyes)? A news release is a key tool, and writing an effective one is easier than you think.

The most important part of writing a news release is the same thing that matters in any kind of writing - write for your audience, not yourself. Of course this is even more key when you are trying to precipitate action on the part of your reader. Even though this seems like common sense, it's amazing how often press releases sound exactly like advertisements. The press are neither your customers nor your Board of Directors - they don't care about the features of your product or the amount of hard work you've done to make the world a better place - they want a story.

The first line and paragraph of your news release need to say it all. Pack the key attention-getting information into the headline and first paragraph. There's a good chance the rest won't even get read. When you do go into detail, make sure it answers the journalist's or editor's needs. Where's the story? Why do their readers want to know?

Here's a compelling story, spun in two different ways.

For Immediate Release:
Impact resistant polymer compound available for townhomes

A new innovation in housing materials made its debut yesterday. After extensive testing, 3PIGS Inc. is proud to announce that BRICKS™, its space age construction material, is now available. Developed through advances in bonding polymerase technology, BRICKS™ are an affordable, weather resistant alternative to traditional straw and wood materials.

Tuesday May 1, 9:00 am
"I can't believe I'm here today!" exclaims survivor of wolf attack.
3PIGS Inc. scientific developer A. Little Pig was in the midst of testing the company's new building material, BRICKS™ when the test suddenly became much more serious - he was attacked by a wolf. Amazingly, not only did Pig survive, but the test house was undamaged. "Traditionally houses have crumbled under the impact of wolf attacks" says Pig. "the development of BRICKS™ means we can achieve a level of wolf-proofing that would have been impossible ten years ago"

There are a few other basics to keep in mind that will ensure you have a coach and not a pumpkin on your hands. Include complete, accurate contact information, with an individual's name. Make sure the person listed is articulate and available. If you mention a Web site in your release, make sure it has full details about your product or event before you send the release - not after.

The Internet is filled with accessible information on putting together news releases with that extra touch of fairy dust. Check out, or the five part workshop, including an interactive template, at
pressrelease.html. For help in distributing your news releases, see  Sources News Release Distribution.

Your relationship with the press might not be a fairy tale, but it definitely doesn't have to be horror story.

See also:
Successful news releases: 7 must-know tips

News releases that work -- and those that don't
Put it in writing
Using History to Write Powerful Leads
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6 Tips for Writing a Successful VNR
Video News Releases
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