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A press release is a useful tool to communicate a full story to the media. Learn how to master the creation of a newsworthy story with a few easy techniques.

Inverted pyramid approach

Those who studied communications will likely have heard of the inverted pyramid method.This technique places the most newsworthy and relevant information at the top of the release to grab the journalist’s attention and exhibit the strength of the story.

A strong opening paragraph will often be the deciding factor of whether a journalist reads the rest of the piece.

Although there are different ways to approach news writing, this method is a tried and tested structure that can help guide your release.

Don’t bury the ledee

The lede is the first introductory sentence that opens the press release so it must engage the journalist’s attention. Placing the most newsworthy elements in the first paragraph is essential.

A great guide to writing your opening statement is to consider the 5 W’s – “who, what, when, where, why, and how?”.

This ensures that you’ve communicated the premise of the story in the first couple of sentences, setting the scene for the journalist and outlining everything they need to know to decide if they are interested.

Case study

Case studies are the emotional heart of a story and provide a human element that will elevate your press release.

Including anecdotal lived experience within your release will help develop credibility and strengthen your call to action.

For example, a business owner who has been impacted by funding cuts or a person with a disability who has been impacted by reforms to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

Sourcing a case study can be a challenging task for many journalists. By providing this element of the story you are strengthening the message within the release taking a task away from the journalist. This will give your story a greater chance of getting picked up.

Partner

Implementing a partner in your press release will help provide an additional voice of authority and help strengthen your call to action.

This can include institutions, academics, researchers, political parties, peak bodies and other voices of expertise.

For example, a disability service provider calling for vaccine mandates may partner with a peak body for disability service providers to help elevate their overall call to action.

Incorporating an additional voice of expertise will provide more legitimacy to your call and will help package up your press release.

Call to action

Having a strong call to action is essential and this is the ‘news hook’ that will grab the attention of the journalist.

Think about the changes you would like to see in your sector and consider what you would like to have a voice on. This can range from calling for more funding, a change in policy, or perhaps clearer communication.

By pinpointing your call to action, you will be able to develop a strong news hook and angle. This will help form the foundation of your press release and will help you build that news edge and will inform the type of case studies and partners needed to strengthen the call.

Headline

Like any story, a press release needs a good headline. A good rule of thumb is to ensure the title is no longer than 10 words and that it summarises the story succinctly. In general, a headline should encapsulate the call to action and focus on the most newsworthy elements of the release.

News values

A great way to make your story topical is to focus on what makes it newsworthy. Focus on different news values to make your press release more appealing to the media.

Consider timeliness, proximity, conflict, currency, the unusual, prominence, magnitude and human spirit as elements you can lean into.

Avoid promoting yourself and your organisation within your press release. Journalists are seeking hard news and will instantly ignore your pitch if they read anything they perceive to be self-promotional or veiled marketing.

Leaning into news values is a great way to steer clear of this, and will help elevate your press release among others.

News angles

It is important that your press release has a clear news angle and theme throughout the piece. Whatever the issue, make sure you clearly assert your stance.

For example, if there is news of a policy being introduced by the government, then you may wish to take an economic angle of how it will affect local businesses.

Make your angle clear and easily understandable throughout your press release.

To summarise

Writing a press release can be intimidating, especially if it is unfamiliar territory for you. To make your piece stand out from the crowd it is important to approach your writing from a news perspective.

A journalist will be looking for the key elements – a case study, partner and a call to action. By including these different components you are setting yourself up to succeed and achieve newsroom gold.

Tony Nicholls

Tony Nicholls

Founder and Director of Good Talent Media

Tony Nicholls is an accomplished journalist who has held roles for more than ten years with the ABC, SBS and Network Ten, covering thousands of news stories across Victoria, Australia and in the international media.