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Writing a Press Release

As a Marketing Coordinator, I write press releases quite often. My usual topics will range anywhere from acquisitions and industry awards, to new hires and charitable donations. I’ve been doing this for almost three years, so I’m no longer a rookie – but not yet an expert. To keep my skills sharp, I recently had the opportunity to attend a quick seminar about press releases, and was pleasantly surprised with the information I received. Steve White of NTV and Tracy Overstreet (formerly of The Grand Island Independent) both presented, and it was great to hear from professionals from both TV and newspaper respectively.
Here are some tips on how to write a complete press release:

Release Date – At the top of your release, note the date you would like the information to go public. In most of our instances, this is “FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE”, but can be any time in the future. Just don’t send your press release too far in advance, as it can easily be pushed aside and forgotten in the meantime. IMPORTANT TIP: If you have privileged information that you don’t want released until a press conference, you have a chance to tell your employees, etc., then mark your press release “EMBARGOED” at the very top in bold, large letters.

Contact Information – Also at the top, list contact information for two people at your organization. Name, phone number and email address will do. Why two? Because if the media has questions and can’t get ahold of you, it could halt the process – and possibly hurt the chances of your news being published.

Title – Your title should be centered and capitalized. If you’re struggling with a title, think of your “911 description”. If you called 911 and had to quickly describe what was happening – what words would you use? Newspapers will often use your exact title when publishing, so try to include your full business name for a little extra advertising.

Body – The body of your press release is there to answer the basic questions of: who, what, where, when, why, and how. If you answer all of those, you message should be well received. It also adds a lot of credibility if you can incorporate a direct quote from someone in your organization. Our president or division managers are often quoted in our press releases. Just remember to keep it short and one page if possible.

Media – A picture is worth a thousand words. You’re not going to get anywhere near a 1000 words in your press release, so attach a picture! Pictures will attract extra attention, which is why we send press releases in the first place. For radio, a sound bite works. For TV – send a video clip if possible. If nothing else, at least include your logo with every release.

Sending It – So now that you have your press release, where to do you send it? With 13 locations across Nebraska, I understand that this can sometimes be a hard decision. Does McCook really care about the award you won in Sioux City? The simplest answer – send it everywhere and let the media decide if they want to run it. Outside of local TV stations, radio stations and newspapers, be sure to include your industry and business publications too. There are so many out there that you really can extend your reach to your own customer-base.

Hopefully this has started your wheels turning on possible press releases you can send out for your own organization. I wanted to leave you with a list that Tracy Overstreet provided called “Test of Newsworthiness”. If you can’t decide if your news is worth sending out, run through this list, and the more you hit – the better!

1. Proximity
2. Prominence
3. Timeliness
4. Impact
5. Conflict/Controversy
6. Uniqueness
7. Human Interest
8. Suspense
9. Clarity
10. Available Sound/Pictures

Please feel free to check out some of our press releases here for examples.