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How to write a press release that gets results. Who am I?. I’m a… …journalist. I’m a …copywriter. I’ve also written hundreds of press releases for the ethical, charity and commercial sectors… S o I’ve been on both sides of the editorial fence. Session objective.

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who am i
Who am I?

I’m a……journalist.


I’ve also written hundreds of press releases for the ethical, charity and commercial sectors…

  • So I’ve been on both sides of the editorial fence.
session objective
Session objective
  • To give you some tips to write better press releases.
is the press release dead
Is the press release dead?

This came from a speech by the government’s comms chief Alex Aiken who said:

“The cosy process of writing a press release and sending it out to journalists was ‘just telesales’". 

Instead, he argued press officers should be content producers.

"You should not start with three pages of A4, but a tweet, an infographic or a video. If you are writing more than 200 words on any subject, you’re probably in the wrong place."

modern journalists
Modern journalists

Newspaper sales are in terminal decline: According to ABC, who monitor sales figures, the best-selling newspapers in 2012 saw their sales decline by an average of 6%. Some daily papers actually fell by a massive 35%.

modern journalists1
Modern journalists
  • Less jobs
  • Journalists doing more roles – blogging, writing columns
  • More stress
  • Less time

…but good news for you.

Fewer journalists have more space to fill, both in print and online.

They need good quality stories, and they need them right now to meet their deadlines!


They need all the information for a story in one place…

  • …and the best way to do that is still a traditional press release.

So where do you get your stories from?


  • Turn the the person next to you.

2. Spend two or three minutes sharing how you identify stories in your charity.

3. Then I’ll call time and you can swap.

connect with the frontline
Connect with the frontline

The people working on the frontline have access to hundreds of great stories everyday.

Find a way to connect with them regularly – whether that’s getting them in for meetings, or going out with a notepad and camera yourself.


Sir Basil Clarke was First World War correspondent, who has also been called the godfather of public relations.



“Clarke understood that the best way to get media coverage is to find the newsworthy aspect of your client or organisation’s work, put it in a news format, and give it to a journalist. “It really is as simple as that and anyone who says differently is just over-complicating things.”

– Richard Evans, Basil Clarke’s biographer

get the news angle right
Get the news angle right

What makes something news?

  • Impact
  • Timeliness
  • Bizarre
  • Currency
  • Passing the ‘who cares test’.
  • Readers will care if the story has an impact on their everyday lives.

What a waste of good food! Tesco admits two thirds of bagged salads end up in bin as it signals end to 'buy one, get one free' deals


Children's internet use survey offers warning to parents.

One in five respondents to study of primary pupils claimed to have met someone they had only previously known online.

  • What ongoing projects could have the biggest impact in the wider world?
  • How does your work impact on the average ‘person on the street’?
  • A large proportion of stories are predictable – and come around every year.
  • If you read women’s / health magazines you’ll probably have seen a load of features recently on SAD, just as autumn kicks in.

Internal affairs: A quarter of us will kiss a colleague at the office Christmas party (with those in HR most likely to have a snog)


Exams watchdog to probe ‘too easy’ GCSE and A-levels

  • At the start of every quarter identify what kind of stories are going to be coming up – general election, Christmas, New Years resolutions.
  • Identify stories from your charity you could pitch for these kind of features.
  • Be aware of lead times. Mags work at least three or four months in advance – papers at least two weeks.
  • From the predictable to the downright strange.
  • Bizarre stories centre around subjects which are bound to stand out in the average news cycle.

Buy a huge Diplodocus dinosaur for £600,000

A huge Diplodocus skeleton, discovered in the US in 2009, is being auctioned in the UK for £600,000.


How did the chicken cross the road? – It wore a high-vis jacket

  • These are the hardest to get right – and often not suitable for the charity sector.
  • Judge them carefully. Your work might not be appropriateand your ceo might not thank you if the paper goes for the wacky angle.


- The future of  UK farming: GM crops on organic farms fertilised by human excrement

Society will have to rethink its attitudes to GM technology and accept an inevitable role for human excrement in the food chain, according to scientists at the University of Nuffield.

A team led by Dr Duncan Cameron and DrJurriaan Ton believes that UK farming’s inevitable future will be a combination of genetically modified crops on organic farms fertilized by human waste.   Analysis by the University of Nuffield team has found that the UK’s available soil has just 100 seasons of nutrients left in it.  

  • Some ideas appear as news stories because their time has come (and probably will fade just as quickly).
  • For instance, anything linked to Facebook or Twitter tends to guarantee column inches at the moment.

Twerking world record broken in NYC by 358 people...including a 73-year-old lady out buying bedding at Macy's


What I learned in twerking class

Twerking, which is at least 20 years old, requires a massive amount of muscle control – and it could do without our snobbery


Firms running NHS care avoiding millions in tax

  • Be aware of current trends.
  • Find ways your charity can add to the story.
news values
News values
  • Impact
  • Timeliness
  • Bizarre
  • Currency
  • Turn to the person next you.
  • Identify a story within your organisation that fits one or more of those news values.
  • After 5 minutes, change roles.
tips for writing a press release
Tips for writing a press release
  • Find the newsworthy aspect of your client or organisation’swork.
  • Put it in a news format and give it to a journalist.
1 get the five ws and one h right
1. Get the five Ws and one H right

Get straight to the point…

  • Who
  • What
  • Where
  • When
  • Why
  • How

On Friday the 11th October, The Rich Banker Benevolent Fund helped organise a charity shooting day event at the Royal Berkshire Shooting School in aid of breast cancer trials at Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow and St Margaret’s Hospital in Epping.

In total, 88 guests attended the exclusive clay pigeon shoot, sponsored by luxury motor yacht firm Rich & Strange Yachts. Afterwards, guests enjoyed a champagne reception and enjoyed an amazing three-course lunch prepared by TV chef Mike Robinson.

2 write an amazing headline
2. Write an amazing headline
  • Today most press releases are sent by email.
  • To be clickedon in a journalist’s inbox you need to grab their attention straight away.
  • Chocolate can improve your heart health says new study.
  • New study proves you can now eat chocolate to your heart’s content.
write an amazing headline
Write an amazing headline
  • Look through the publications you’re aiming at and copy the way they write headlines.
  • Write out at least ten headlines – then pick your favourite.
  • It’s probably the most important part of the press release.
3 get the right format
3. Get the right format
  • A simple Word document.
  • Send as an attachment and cut and paste into the body copy.
  • Use your headline as the email subject line.
  • One side maximum.
  • Don’t send huge attachments.
  • Never send a PDF.
4 provide quotes
4. Provide quotes
  • Journalists need a quote for 99% of stories.
  • Quotes add colour and ‘the human element’.
  • Need to be from someone credible (senior) – write one for your ceo and get them to sign it off.
  • Don’t bother writing more than two paragraphs of quotes.
provide quotes
Provide quotes

Shane Shortman, brand manager at Generic Sauce Company, comments: “We are so proud to continue our partnership with Movember for the third year running. It’s a fantastic cause, and we are fortunate to be able to use our platforms to drive awareness of the charity and the great work they do.

“We had a great response last year, and our added university outreach saluting and recruiting 2013’s Mo Bros will create even more noise, growing support for the charity while encouraging men to grow their mos!”

5 provide a contact
5. Provide a contact
  • For hi-res images, interview opportunities or further information please contact…
  • Be available.
  • Deliver what you promise.
  • Have case studies ready to go.
6 offer free stuff
6. Offer free stuff
  • All journalists are blaggers at heart.
  • Even if it’s canapes and a glass of wine at a your report launch – make sure you mention it!
7 purge jargon
7. Purge jargon

"The implementation of the LMDGI brought unprecedented challenge for local development authorities and staff, and with resources still being stretched to extremes, the focus of this training programme is resolutely fixed within the overall capacity building framework for local government developed during the year of April 06 West Africa Regional workshop on LMDGI in Ouagadougou."


The Plain English Campaign defines plain English as:

  • "writing that the intended audience can read, understand and act upon the first time they read it."
purge jargon
Purge jargon
  • Be clear and accessible.
  • Avoid long and complicated words.
  • Get rid of jargon and acronyms.
8 use facts and stats
8. Use facts and stats
  • Nothing better than a good statistic.
  • Allows you get the gist of a story at a glance.
  • 50% of pensioners live below the poverty line.
  • Donations are down by a third.
use facts and stats
Use facts and stats
  • Be accurate – they could be checked.
  • 24 per cent of people = a quarter or one in four
  • 31% less = reduced by a third
  • The size of the Isle of Skye/a football pitch
  • Enough people to fill Hampden Park
9 pick up the phone
9. Pick up the phone
  • Journalists are divided on phone calls. Some hate them, some love them.
  • You just have to find out which ones.
  • Make a quick call a day after you’ve sent it to ask if they’ve seen it and need anything more.
  • Be prepared to be knocked back.
  • Don’t tweet or text. It’s irritating and impersonal.
10 be persistent
10. Be persistent
  • If I see your name in my inbox every month I’m more likely to use you from something.
  • Like many journalists I write about so many different subjects – so there’s always the chance I’m going to need you eventually.

“Find the newsworthy aspect of your client or organisation’s work, put it in a news format, and give it to a journalist.”

five things to do this week
Five things to do this week
  • Get in touch with your frontline staff.
  • Practice writing some headlines.
  • Read a publication you’ve never seen before, that’s relevant to your audience.
  • Write some quotes for your ceo.
  • Look into setting up a bank of case studies.