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Press Release Writing

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In this case, trying to be funny in your press release might not be a good idea! 8/2/09 ... 4. Picture captions if you are supplying pictures with the release. ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Press Release Writing


1
Press Release Writing
  • Best Practice
  • General principles

2
Press release writing exercise
  • Lets start by looking at a hypothetical
    announcement that we want to make through the
    news media. The facts
  • 1. There has been a huge increase in the numbers
    of people visiting Spains state forests for
    walking and picnicking - up from 450 million
    visits a year in 1990 to 625 million visits in
    2007.
  • 2. There have been increasing complaints from
    the public that the forests are getting too
    crowded.

3
Press release writing exercise
  • The facts 2
  • 3. The Government has agreed to provide the
    money for the Spanish Forest Service to build
    2000 kilometres of new public footpaths and 100
    new picnic areas in key state forests across
    Spain.
  • 4. The announcement was made in Bilbao today by
    the Minister of Forests, Juan Lopez Garcia, in a
    speech to the Spanish Forest Users Association.
  • 5. The project will take three years to complete.

4
Press release writing - exercise
  • The facts 3
  • 6. It will cost 15 million Euros.
  • 7. The work will be done by local companies.
  • 8. The Forest Service will first consult local
    communities about the best routes for the new
    footpaths and the best sites for the picnic
    areas.

5
Press release writing - exercise
  • The facts 4
  • 9. The budget provides money for new car parking
    areas to be built in association with the new
    footpaths.
  • 10. The announcement is an example of the
    Governments honouring its election promise to
    increase recreation facilities in state forests.
  • Lets keep this scenario in mind…

6
Press release writing - introduction
  • What are we trying to achieve when we send out a
    press release?
  • We want to provide some information to some
    people.

7
Press release writing - introduction
  • How are we hoping to achieve that?
  • By getting a story or article about it published
    in the news media.
  • (And hold on to that word story
  • its critical!)

8
Press release writing - introduction
  • But how are we going to persuade the news media
    to publish our information?
  • By writing such a good press release that they
    say Wow, this is good! We must use this story!

9
Press release writing - introduction
  • And how do we do that?
  • By thinking and writing like a journalist
  • In fact, by becoming an extra writer for the
    newspaper, radio station, magazine etc...

10
Press release writing - introduction
  • And how does a journalist think and write?
  • English-language journalists do not tell you that
    they write articles or publish information
    they talk about writing stories.
  • This means they write for their newspapers,
    magazines etc. in exactly the same way that we
    tell stories to our friends in the bar about
    events in our lives!

11
Press release writing - - introduction
  • We start with the fact that makes our listener go
    Wow! Really? Thats fantastic / amazing /
    terrible / incredible!
  • We then give the rest of the information in a
    lively, interesting manner.

12
Press release writing - introduction
  • For example you are going to meet a friend for
    a drink after work when you see a bad car
    accident…
  • Do you start telling the story to your friend
    with the background information - there was a
    lot of rain, the visibility was poor, the traffic
    lights had failed, the traffic was very heavy…?

13
Press release writing - introduction
  • No! You start by saying something like
  • Crikey, mate, you shouldve seen the big crash I
    just saw up the road! Two people killed, by the
    look of it! Wreckage everywhere! Hell of a
    mess...!

14
Press release writing - introduction
  • Why do you start the story like that?
  • Without even thinking about it, you have gone
    first to the most exciting part of the event,
    because you know thats what will get your
    friends attention and interest.
  • Journalists use this same technique to get their
    readers (and their editors!) attention to
    sell the story to the editor and to the readers.

15
Press release writing - introduction
  • We, also, must gain editors attention if we are
    to have any chance of getting our story published
    and presented to our audience through the news
    media.
  • Lets look at the key elements
  • of an effective press release….

16
Press release writing - Key elements
  • Key elements 1
  • 1. Message - what do we want to say?
  • 2. Audience - who do we want to say it to?
  • 3. Content - what information needs to go into
    our press release?

17
Press release writing - Key elements
  • Key elements 2
  • 4. Structure - what order should we put the
    information in?
  • 5. Language - what sort of words and sentences
    should we use? Simple, everyday words and
    phrases? or technical forestry language? or
    government-speak? etc..

18
Press release writing - Key elements
  • Key elements 3
  • 6. Tone - positive, negative, neutral, etc?
  • 7. Good writing following the rules of good
    writing practice.

19
Press release writing - key elements
  • Key elements 4
  • 8. House style - what is this? How does it
    apply to our press releases? What function does
    it perform?
  • Lets look at each of these
  • key elements in more depth...

20
Press release writing - key elements
  • But where do we start?
  • The key starting points are
  • Our message and
  • Our audience.

21
Press release writing - Key elements
  • Starting points 1
  • Your message
  • What do you want to tell your readers? Whats the
    key issue? Whats happened? Whats been said?
    Most importantly
  • Whats new? What part of this story will affect
    my readers?

22
Press release writing - Key elements
  • Starting points 2
  • Your audience
  • Who needs to hear our message? Know who you want
    to speak to.
  • Is it the public? Or hunters? Or foresters? Or
    walkers? Or mountain bikers? Scientists? etc etc

23
Press release writing - key elements
  • Once we know what we want to say (our
    message),...
  • ...and who we want to say it to (our audience),
  • ...we can start putting together our press
    release...

24
Press release writing - key elements
  • 3. Content
  • In addition to the key message, what other
    information should go into our press release?
  • background information how did we get to this
    point?
  • what this news means for the future
  • other useful and relevant facts how big are
    these forests? How many footpaths are there
    already?
  • quotes from key people.

25
Press release writing - key elements
  • Content 2
  • Answer the Five Ws
  • Who?
  • What?
  • When?
  • Where?
  • Why?

26
Press release writing key elements
  • Content 3 the 5 Ws
  • Who said it or did it, or will do it or say it?
  • What happened, or will happen?
  • When did it happen when will it happen?
  • Where did it happen where will it happen?
  • Why did it happen, or why will it happen?

27
Press release writing - key elements
  • Content 4
  • Most times, we also need to answer the H
    question
  • How - how did it happen, or how will it happen?

28
Press release writing - key elements
  • 4. Structure
  • We need to build or construct our press
    release in a logical order
  • It must start in an effective manner (the
    intro), and
  • it must flow clearly and logically from one idea
    to the next.

29
Press release writing key elements
  • Structure 2 - the inverted pyramid
  • The most important information at the top
  • The key supporting information
  • in the middle
  • The least important
  • information at the
  • bottom

30
Press release writing - key elements
  • Structure 3 - the inverted pyramid
  • The inverted pyramid is user friendly to the
    editor - it makes it easy for her to cut the
    story if she does not have enough space or time
    to use all of it
  • Thats because she can quickly see that the least
    important information is at the bottom of the
    press release, so she can safely cut it from the
    bottom.

31
Press release writing key elements
  • Structure 4 the intro
  • The crucial, all-important first sentence. It
    must
  • Grab the editors interest if it doesnt, your
    press release might go into the rubbish
  • Contain your key message
  • Make it clear why it is relevant to the editors
    readers / listeners / viewers.

32
Press release writing - key elements
  • 5. Language
  • Use language that your audience can understand.
  • Use simple, everyday words if your audience is
    ordinary people who do not understand technical
    forestry words.

33
Press release writing - key elements
  • Language 2
  • Its okay to use technical language for a
    technical audience, if you are absolutely sure
    that only technical people, such as foresters,
    will be interested.
  • For example, a press release about timber
    marketing.

34
Press release writing - key elements
  • Language 3
  • … but as a general rule, remember that the
    average reading age (in the English-speaking
    world) is only 12 or 13 years old!
  • … so write in language that a well educated
    13-year-old child can understand.

35
Press release writing key elements
  • Language 5
  • Try not to use
  • government-speak
  • academic-speak or university-speak
  • science-speak
  • business-speak
  • meeting-speak

36
Press release writing key elements
  • Language 6
  • These are the pompous, grand-sounding words and
    phrases loved by people who work in government
    organisations, universities, research
    institutions, big business etc.
  • They were invented to make these people look and
    sound elite to themselves.

37
Press release writing key elements
  • Language 6
  • Instead, try to use plain, ordinary, everyday
    language that everyone can understand.

38
Press release writing - key elements
  • 6. Tone
  • Think about the tone you want to strike. Is it
    appropriate for your press release to sound
  • positive and cheerful? For example, when you are
    announcing good news.
  • In this case, you can probably safely use some
    humour and a play on words to help to keep your
    readers attention.

39
Press release writing key elements
  • Tone 2
  • Or is it more appropriate that your press
    release adopts a more serious and cautious tone,
    such as when you are issuing a safety warning
    after a serious accident?
  • In this case, trying to be funny in your press
    release might not be a good idea!

40
Press release writing - key elements
  • 7. Good Writing
  • 1. Avoid very long sentences
  • In English, more than 30 words is too long. If
    your first draft is more than 30 words long,
    either cut some words out, or break it down into
    two or three shorter sentences.

41
Press release writing - key elements
  • Good writing 2
  • For example
  • Since learning that Hylobius's departure from a
    restocking site can be predicted, and that they
    tend to stay away once they have left, the
    Forestry Commission has saved more than 100,000
    in pesticide use over three years in lowland pine
    forests in southern England, and 45,000 in
    top-up spraying costs over three years in upland
    forests in its Dornoch Forest District in the Far
    North of Scotland.
  • 67 words puff, puff, puff…!!! When we reach the
    end, weve forgotten what it said at the
    beginning!

42
Press release writing - key elements
  • Good Writing 3
  • So lets break it down into three sentences
    instead...
  • The Forestry Commission has made significant
    savings since learning that Hylobius's departure
    from a restocking site can be predicted, and that
    they tend to stay away once they have left. It
    has saved more than 100,000 in pesticide use
    over three years in lowland pine forests in
    southern England. It has also saved 45,000 in
    top-up spraying costs over three years in upland
    forests in the Far North of Scotland.
  • One sentence of 30 words, one of 19 words, one
    of 22 - much better!!

43
Press release writing - key elements
  • Good Writing 4
  • 2. Prefer the Active voice
  • The active voice is
  • Juan planted the tree.
  • The passive voice is
  • The tree was planted by Juan.

44
Press release writing - key elements
  • Good writing 5
  • 3. Aim for a pleasant reading rhythm
  • Mix shorter sentences with longer sentences
  • Too many short sentences one after the other make
    for jerky, irritating reading
  • Too many long sentences in succession make boring
    reading thats hard to understand.

45
Press release writing - key elements
  • Good writing 6
  • 4. Use good grammar, spelling and punctuation
  • These are important, because
  • they help to make the meaning clear.
  • If you dont agree, consider these examples…

46
Press release writing key elements
  • Good writing 7
  • I could not find my supper, so I ate the dogs.
  • I could not find my supper, so I ate the dogs.
  • Heres another…

47
Press release writing key elements
  • Good writing 7
  • A woman without her man is nothing.
  • A woman without her, man is nothing.

48
Press release writing - key elements
  • Good writing 8
  • Editors judge the quality of your organisation
    by the quality of YOUR work, so impress them!
  • If we want to present our organisation as
    professional and worth doing business with, we
    must reflect this by using good grammar, correct
    spelling and correct punctuation in our press
    releases - and all other written material.

49
Press release writing key elements
  • 8. House style
  • House style is your organisations internal
    rules for written material, in this case, press
    releases. It governs such topics as
  • the fonts or typefaces that your organisation
    permits
  • the sizes of font or typeface that it approves
  • the colours it permits, such as the top strip of
    the page
  • where it permits its logo to be placed
  • whether you write Senora Maria Lopez or just
    Maria Lopez
  • where you put the Notes to Editors
  • where you put your contact telephone number etc
    etc etc.

50
Press release writing key elements
  • House style 2
  • Why is this important in press releases?
  • It can create an association in editors and
    journalists minds between your organisation and
    the quality of your press releases.
  • If you consistently write good-quality, relevant
    press releases, and your consistent use of house
    style makes them instantly recognisable as yours,
    you increase your chances of getting your press
    release published.

51
Press release writing key elements
  • House style 3
  • Your house style should be logical and
    user-friendly
  • It should be consistent with your organisations
    wider corporate identity
  • You should be absolutely consistent in using it,
    press release after press release after press
    release. Do not confuse editors by doing things
    differently every time.

52
Press release writing Notes to Editors
  • Use of Notes to Editors
  • We should include some explanatory Notes to
    Editors after the end of our story.
  • At the very least, we should always say in the
    Notes to Editors who our organisation is and what
    it does, for example…

53
Press release writing Notes to Editors
  • Use of Notes to Editors 2
  • The Spanish Forest Service is the government
    department that manages state forests in Spain.
    It manages XXX million hectares of public forest
    land to provide public benefits, including
    sustainable timber production, nature
    conservation, public recreation and rural and
    community development. For further information,
    visit www.forestry.gov.es.

54
Press release writing Notes to Editors
  • Use of Notes to Editors 3
  • The Notes to Editor can also give further
    background information on the details of the
    story, for example
  • How much forest there is in Spain
  • How much is owned by the Government and
  • How much is owned by private people or
    organisations, etc etc

55
Press rlease writing Contact details
  • Contact Details
  • Dont forget to let the news media know how they
    can contact you! Provide an office telephone
    number and a mobile telephone number so that
    they can call you to
  • ask you for more information and
  • ask for an interview.

56
Press release details and finally
  • … and finally
  • Make it relevant!
  • Do not send the press release to news media to
    whom it is not relevant, for example, do not send
    a press release about hunting to magazines about
    mountain biking.

57
Press release writing and finally
  • …and finally 2
  • And let the editor know right at the very
    beginning, in the intro and/or the headline,
    what makes it relevant to her readers or
    listeners. For example,
  • if the story is about forests in Andalucia, be
    sure to mention forests in Andalucia in the
    first paragraph. That way, editors in Andalucia
    will see immediately that this story is relevant
    to my readers.

58
Press release writing and finally
  • A suggested user-friendly structure (handout)
  • 1. Date and press release number
  • 2. Headline brief, snappy, and summarising
    the most exciting part
  • 3. The story, comprising
  • The Intro
  • The remainder of the story, following the
    inverted pyramid structure
  • A bullet point paragraph to direct reade.rs to
    sources of more information a website, and/or a
    person, with telephone number and email address
  • 4. Picture captions if you are supplying
    pictures with the release.
  • 5. Notes to Editors - The first one can tell
    editors how to obtain photographs, if relevant.)
  • 6. News media contact your name and phone
    number.

59
Press release writing lines to take
  • Lines to Take
  • Sometimes, we dont want to put every relevant
    fact in a press release, because we dont really
    want them publicised!
  • However, journalists might call us and ask these
    difficult questions anyway.
  • We need to have answers prepared these are our
    lines to take in case of questions.

60
Press release writing lines to take
  • Lines to Take 2
  • Before you issue your press release, try to think
    of every possible question a journalist might ask
    about this subject.
  • Consult your officials and prepare answers to
    these questions. These are your lines to take in
    case of questioning.
  • Make sure that every relevant person in your
    organisation has these lines the journalist
    might go call them directly rather than you!

61
Press release writing handling bad news
  • Handling bad news (handout)
  • Sometimes, we must issue a press release about
    bad news, but we dont really want too many
    people to hear about it!
  • Tactics for dealing with this are

62
Pres release writing handling bad news
  • Handling bad news 2
  • Issuing the press release to only a small number
    of news media
  • Starting the press release with something boring
    and routine sounding and
  • Burying the bad news well down in the press
    release.

63
Press releases working from speeches
  • Working from speeches
  • Speech and press release must synchronise with
    each other.
  • Liaise with speechwriter to ensure there is a
    sound-bite in the speech that you can use for a
    quote in the press release.
  • Tricky when you are writing the press release
    before the speech is written!
  • ENDS
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