The press release is frequently used as an important tool in public relations. The main goal of a press release is to persuade reporters to do a story on an issue that is important to you. A press release is even more important today than in the past because of the increased use of web sites. A press release provides a clear, concise record of events, announcements and policy positions. Consequently, there are usually two audiences for any press release; the general public and reporters. Both audiences must be kept in mind when crafting an effective press release.
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The most common audience for any press release is comprised by reporters. A well written press release allows reporters to quickly review information; an essential key to their job. Within the first two sentences the press release should tell reporters precisely why they should pursue that story. Of utmost importance are the headline and the lead. The headline of a press release should not be longer than ten words and should contain buzzwords that will grab the attention of the reader. Ultimately, the purpose of the headline is to whet the appetite of the reader, or in this case the reporter, and encourage them to read the entire release and finally write a story on it.
A press release lead is much like a lead in a newspaper. The summary lead should condense the most important information in the story. In most cases, the lead should not be longer than two sentences and certainly no longer than four sentences. You can use the lead to effectively summarize the overall idea of the release.
The story and your goals will likely determine what will come next in the release. Generally, it’s a good idea to include a quote within the second paragraph of the press release, particularly if the press release involves agencies, organizations, elected leaders or high-profile leaders. Look for quotes which convey emotion or opinion to gain the most feeling. This will help to improve your chances of reporters picking it up for a story. A concluding quote can also be used in the final paragraph.
An effective release should be restricted to a single page; with only two pages being dedicated to heavier subjects. Finally, always make sure you include a relevant URL and “#” or “–end–” centered at the bottom of the page to conclude the press release.
Reference: Media Relations Handbook, by Bradford Fitch, Section 2.4 Press Release.
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