How to Write Press Releases That Get News Coverage

Posted on Feb 23, 2012

(An Insider’s Guide)

by Julie Tam, TV Journalist & Founder/President, TheApplicationMasters.com

Having worked as a TV news anchor, reporter, and producer for 10 years, I’ve seen thousands upon thousands of news/press releases – a lot of bad ones and some good ones that grabbed my attention. When you want news coverage of yourself, your company, or another entity, how do you get through to newsroom staff at a TV or radio station, newspaper, magazine, or website, when they’re flooded with news releases, emails, phone calls, and faxes and bombarded by breaking news and scanner traffic?

Here are my trade secrets for crafting a winning news release that won’t get lost in the shuffle:

  1. Sometimes timing is everything. Some media outlets like to preview events by running a story before the event happens as a way of announcing it so the public can plan to attend or beating the competition (other media outlets). Unless you’re required by a client/stakeholder to hold off on releasing the information, you usually want to send out a news release before the event (e.g. book release, festival) so the media has time to assign staff to cover it. If you wait until the last minute, it may be too late for an assignment desk to reroute news crews and re-plan logistics to cover your event. Of course, if there’s major breaking news that day, you may not get coverage because news outlets are busy covering that other news.
  2. Grab an assignment editor or reporter’s attention right away. News outlets get so many news releases and phone calls daily, it’s sometimes overwhelming. So don’t waste a reader’s time with a lengthy, wordy release. Get to the crux of the story in the headline and first few sentences and keep the release to just a few paragraphs on one page, if possible. Format it so it’s easy to read at a glance. Write clearly and directly. Don’t use convoluted, complex sentences. Write for the “average Joe.” You can attach additional information, graphics, and photos. Imagine if you saw a hundred news releases come across your desk and you had to sift through them to find newsworthy stories quickly. What would get your attention? Emotion, a compelling story, and good sound and visuals (for radio, TV, and online video) are the keys.
  3. Be available. Indicate on the news release that you and other key people involved in the story are available for interviews by phone, in person, AND on camera. Do not tell a TV reporter you want to do a phone interview, unless the reporter wants only background for information. If you want your story on TV, be prepared to appear on camera in a taped or live interview. Include email addresses and phone numbers where everyone can be reached as quickly as possible. Often news outlets can wait only half an hour or an hour for an answer, especially for a same-day story (coverage on the same day the news released was sent).
  4. Send your news release to all relevant media outlets. Don’t just write to the assignment/news desk. Search on the media outlet’s website or call and ask the desk or receptionist for specific reporters who cover the beat related to your news topic (e.g. medical, consumer, investigative, financial). Target local news outlets and any national or international ones that also might pick up the story. Be a consumer of news – read newspapers, watch newscasts, listen to the radio, browse websites – to learn which media cover certain types of stories and tailor your news release accordingly. Don’t forget the specialty/smaller media outlets (e.g. ethnic, alternative, long-form TV news magazine shows, community newspapers).

We here at TheApplicationMasters.com edit news releases (and a variety of other writing), so if you need help, browse our website and submit your materials here.