Writing a media release

Some tips from years of “reading” them

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash


This was the screaming label that came with the manila envelope that I got every week. Sometimes, this package was bundled with a chocolate bar — most of the time, an imported brand. This was how a press release would look like, or at least to my knowledge, how it was packaged back then. (You have a choice to ignore the chocolate bar that came with it, but that’s another story to tell).

When I was working for a local newspaper, I had my share of press or media releases. It was composed of a piece of paper with an accompanying photo — and later a CD that contained photos. It was given to us, the press before a press conference or after — depends on the purpose.

So what is a press release? This was the question posed to me during a writing class for organizational communications students. I was baffled at first when I was asked this question because I thought they had some idea what a press release was. After that moment of “shock,” I went on to explain its content, while I discussed in passing the practitioners behind this important tool for disseminating information about a company, product, service, or even yourself.

A press release, as communications expert Neil Patel puts it, is a “great way to get the word out about a company, product, or service, and to more effectively brand that company, [organization], product, or service.”

Elements of a good press release

There is no formula for a good press release. My rule of thumb is simply this: it fulfills the very purpose it serves: it provides enough information for journalists to start crafting a story. Think of it as an act of “pitching a story” to a media or news organization. So how would you do it?

  1. The headline. Just like news stories, the headline must grab attention. No buts, no ifs. Editors get dozens of releases in manila envelopes — or in today’s world — in inboxes every day. They get inundated by these one-pagers all calling for urgency (i.e. FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE). If you’re headline fails the “attention grabbing test,” it goes straight to the trash can, or worse, ignored as spam.
  2. The summary. Press releases should offer an easy-to-understand release summary.They can be a bulleted list prior to the rundown of facts, figures, and quotes from official sources. The bulleted list acts like “talking points” designed to communicate your main messages, at least one to start.
  3. The quote. Remember, press releases serve as “starting points” for prodding and conversations. As a former media practitioner, I go through press releases quickly to find the “official statement” coming from an organization or company. Using that statement as a reference, journalists could then ask more questions during press conferences or so-called “ambush interviews” until they get their own quote that is exclusive to them, or at least closest to what they hope to hear. For television or radio, this is called a “soundbite,” which describes a crisp and juicy sentence to hang their story.
  4. The story. If there is one thing that most PR practitioners fail to establish; that is a story. Editors and journalists alike are after a story. That’s their job. As a PR practitioner, your role is to facilitate its discovery. But it is also your job to make your press release:

Rise above the noise

Get some traction from its intended target audience/media channel

Get the story out. Press releases are conversation starters. They’re not the end-goal.

5. The boiler template. Never release a PR that doesn’t include this template. The boiler template is the “About us” portion of the release. It is a paragraph that tells readers about the company or organization; what is stands for (or what it does) with some short facts and figures. For some, it is a pitch on the organization’s mission. It also contains important contact information. So handle this with care.

Photo by Evangeline Shaw on Unsplash (Your usual press conference scene).

More tips on doing a great press release

  1. Press releases should always be newsworthy. How do you judge newsworthiness? To answer that, you need to understand of what makes news these days. Start with something fresh. Scan your target newspapers or media outlets. Learn how you can rise above the clutter.
  2. Know your audience and your media outlets. What would make your target audience pay attention? What tickles the media outlets’ fancy? This requires you doing your homework to understand your target audience. Knowing when to send out PR is half the battle. (Note: never send one when media is at their busiest like close to deadlines). Seed PR articles on “slow news days.” Target editors or reporters who specialize in the topic you wish to pursue.
  3. Make sure your grammar, spelling, and punctuation are correct. This sounds so basic, but editors and journalists who come across poorly written work will cringe and reject your PR, immediately with little thought. Remember you only get one chance to impress them. It should be perfect the first time. So, spellcheck!
  4. Use social to gain traction and listen to your audience. There are paid distribution channels for PR, but social media is something that can help amplify your message. On the flip side, social can allow you to “listen” to your target audience (i.e. What are they saying about your PR?). Use social media wisely.



An ex-journalist. Teacher. Dad. Loves Guitar & Books. Writes when inspiration hits.

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An ex-journalist. Teacher. Dad. Loves Guitar & Books. Writes when inspiration hits.