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  • Writer's pictureDaniela Maoate-Cox

Anatomy of a Press Release



You’re nearing the point where you’re ready to tell everyone about the great work you’re doing or to share an important viewpoint on a piece of policy or announce an upcoming event.


But making sure your news stands out from the rest so that the media and other organisations pay attention takes some strategy. That’s where the press release (PR) comes in.


These are short and informative announcements to publicly share your work or views with media and the general public, including other organisations either in the public sector or an industry relevant to yours. Your PR has to stand out against countless other posts and emails so here are some tips to ensure it does.


A PR is usually structured like this:

  • Headline

  • Date

  • Intro (the hook)

  • First paragraph (context)

  • Quote

  • Second paragraph

  • Quote

  • Contact details (for queries)


Headline

Make it short, snappy, and to the point. It doesn’t need to tell your whole story, it just needs to grab people’s attention so they want to read more. The headline has the tough job of competing with a long list of other posts so include keywords and think about ones that will relate to your target audience. When in doubt, keep it simple and to the point.


Date

It might seem simple but PRs hang around online so make sure you put a date on there for people to know when your news came out. If you’re sending it directly to people then be clear if your PR is under embargo to avoid anyone spilling the news before you’re ready.


Intro (the hook)

The first line of your PR needs to tell people what is going on in a way that encourages them to learn more. This is also why it’s also called a hook because you want to hook your reader in. Clearly state what you’re doing and why it’s interesting.


First paragraph

This will give context to your intro/hook. Provide a little more information about who you are and what is happening. Then lead into a quote from your spokesperson.


Quote

Quotes are useful for those reading your PR to understand the stance your organisation is taking and what kind of style they can expect if they decide to interview your spokesperson. The quote shouldn’t repeat the paragraph before it but should add more information, share the spokesperson's opinion and add a little bit of their personality.


Second paragraph

This can provide more context that is useful but not as important as the information you’ve included at the start. Be aware many people skim the top few sentences of a PR so that’s where you want your best information to be. Don’t bury the lede at the end. This paragraph can also be used to introduce any partners or another spokesperson if you’re collaborating with other people.


Quote 2

Either a secondary quote from your spokesperson about the next part of your work or sharing further statements. This could also be a first quote from a collaborative partner.


You can choose to end it here or add in a final concluding paragraph sharing relevant future dates or summing up the main point of the PR. For example, if it’s about the release of research then share when and where it can be accessed. If it’s a PR sharing an opinion on a piece of policy then share what you’d like the Government or agency to do next.


Contact details

Make sure people know who to contact and how if they want further information or an interview. Prep both the contact person and spokesperson (often these are different people) so they’re prepared (and available!) for any queries. Don’t be an organisation that puts out a PR and then is not ready to talk about it, the whole point is to have people interested in what you’re doing or saying.


Further information for editors (optional)

If including the history or structure of your organisation takes up too much room in the main body of the PR then you can include it at the end as extra information for those reading. This part should be similar to an “about us” section on a website or it can provide more matter of fact details.


Ready to issue your PR? Remember this!

Keep your language plain and simple. The easier it is for people to understand, the more likely they are to pick up on your work. Don’t bury the lede or the hook, let people know what you’re announcing up front or you run the risk of it being missed. In terms of length, aim for one page or a page and a half. If you’re heading into two pages or more then you’re putting too much information in there and it probably won’t be read. Read some other ones online and copy the structure of the PRs you like.


Finally, make sure you’ve included the basics, who, what, when, where, why, and how; if you have all those ticked off then you’re good to go!


Daniela worked as a journalist for eight years, including as the host of RNZ's show on Parliament, 'The House'. She lives in Te Whanganui-a-Tara and has a keen interest in the Pacific diaspore and how the unique cultural makeup in Aotearoa New Zealand impacts people's place in society.

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