How to Write a Press Release

A press release is a brief synopsis that announces an event or piece of news for the intention of “pitching” a story towards a media outlet. Even though a press release is not necessarily written to be a news article, it is not uncommon for an editor to publish a press release as one.

When writing a press release, always remember that you are not only making an announcement. You are pitching a story. News sources go through countless press releases every day, and toss out many of them. By developing a well-written and well-managed release, you will have higher chances of your story getting picked up.

Read how to write a press release below, and view a sample press release here.  View an archive of YAL National press releases here if you require additional examples.

Elements of a Press Release

Length:  Keep your press release to one page in length, two at the absolute most.

Contact Information:  Provide the name of your YAL chapter along with a contact person’s name, number, and an email address of a member who will serve as a contact for the press. 

Release: “For Immediate Release” needs to be typed in an easily identifiable area -- preferably in the upper left-hand corner of the release -- or incorporated in a header graphic.

Headline:  The headline is crafted in such a way to get the media contact’s attention towards the release and make them want to continue reading. Your press release is competing with many others. If your headline does not get the editor or writer interested enough to keep reading, then it will not be used.

The best type of headline will capitalize on the unique nature of your story, while summarizing it too—so try to inject a bit of news into your headline. The headline should always be typed in bold face. The length of a headline can vary from a few words to a few lines. Just remember, the better the headline on your press release, the better the chances are it will be read.

Text:  This is the part of the release you are pitching towards the media for them to pick up on and further develop. There are two main parts of the text: the lead and the body of the release.

The Lead:  The lead is the first paragraph in your press release. The main purpose of the lead is to answer the crucial questions of who, what, where and when. If possible, answer the question of how too.

The Body:  In the body you will go more into the details and coverage of the story.

The body of the press release needs to be written to resemble an inverted pyramid; meaning that each succeeding paragraph should be of declining importance. If an editor decides to run the original press release ad does not have space to use the whole release, they can cut it from bottom up without losing the most important information.

In the body you want to provide more background information on the story or event, what your YAL chapter set out to accomplish, any future plans for your chapter regarding this topic. If the release is after the event, include the turnout and response from your campus and community.

Ending:  Finish the release with a description of your chapter and YAL as a whole (text for the latter is available in the sample press release). After the last paragraph drop to the next line, type out “###” and center align it.  Your whole release should fit on one page.

By getting all the crucial points across in the lead, you have now captured the attention of the individual reading your press release. Once they continue past the lead, they are now dedicated towards learning more about your event or news.

Tips for Writing the Press Release

  • Proofread. There is nothing more unprofessional than sending a “professional” press release that is full of errors.
  • Simplify. Stick to using strong verbs, lively information, and text that flows well without repetition. Do not use an extravagant word when a simple one will do. Do not try to “fancy” up the press release my inserting too many adjectives; instead make sure only relevant news is present.
  • Keep each sentence short and to the point. Structure each paragraph to only be a couple of sentences in length.
  • If you use numerals in your release, type out numbers one to ten, and write numerals from 11 on up.
  • Always give an exact date in a press release. For example, state “September 17, 2012" instead of “next Thursday” or “tomorrow.”

After Sending the Release

  • Be available. The individuals you have listed as “contact” on the release needs to be easily accessible on the days shortly after the release is sent out.
  • Be prepared. Your contact representative should prepare answers to questions a reporter is likely to ask. If an answer is not known, the contact needs to be prepared to find the answer and get back to the reporter in a timely manner.
  • Treat reporters with courtesy. Even better, try to become friends with them. The more a reporter knows who you are, the more likely they will use you for their information. If you can, try to meet with reporters you work with in person, perhaps take them out to lunch.

Media Advisories

A media advisory is similar to a press release. Its purpose is to quickly get the media’s attention. However, unlike a press release that tells or pitches a story, a media announcement is meant to alert the press about the specifics of an upcoming event. Here is an example of a media advisory which was sent by YAL National.

You will send out a media advisory several times before an event. Generally you want to send out the media advisory a month, a week, and a day before the event.

A media advisory, which is never longer than one page, will include information in this order:

  • Name of Group/Logo
  • Media Advisory: Headline
  • Released: Month/Day/Year/Time
  • Contact Information:
  • What:
  • Topic:
  • Where:
  • When: Date and Time
  • Brief description of what will happen at the event.
  • Who will be at the event? Why are they holding the event?
  • Any additional information