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Back to the PR Basics: Writing

Journalists are trained and experienced in writing stories. By writing your release following the accepted, common style (e.g. CP Style), you make it easier for reporters to “run with the story”. Given how lean and mean newsrooms are running, a well-written release helps journalists do their jobs which is win-win for everyone - especially your clients! Follow these writing tips to ensure your releases read as newsworthy:

Write in News Format - The Inverted Pyramid

News stories are written in a standard format, called the inverted pyramid. This format puts the most interesting and relevant information in the first paragraph of the story – what journalists call the lede (or lead).

The lede should provide the answers to: who, what, where, when, why and how.

Every paragraph after the lede should include information of decreasing importance. A good way to determine the importance of your information is to write up a list of the details of your story and then rank every item according to its relevance and importance. Remember, news releases should be clear and concise – you won’t be able to include every piece of information, so only choose the details that are the most relevant and interesting. Provide links to supporting materials, video and photos online. The more resources that are available, the more dynamic the story becomes and you’ve increased your odds of pick-up.

The final paragraph is the “boilerplate” – offering a concise description of your company and its services. If there is more than one company involved, there may be more than one boilerplate.

It’s also a good idea to quote high up in your story – put quotes in either the second or third paragraph.

Get the Headline Right

Journalists write news story headlines so they’ll grab the attention of readers. PR pros need to do the same for journalists. Write a headline that’s interesting and eye-catching – but make sure it clearly and concisely summarizes your story. Journalists don’t have time to guess about whether or not your story is relevant to their beat or interest.

When writing headlines, only capitalize the first letter of the first word – the remaining words should always be lowercase.

Always make sure your headline contains an active verb – without a verb, you’ve simply written a label.

Write Objectively

News releases are just that: news. And news stories must be written objectively. Journalists are not interested in your opinions – they want the facts.

When attributing quotes, always use “says” or “said”. Avoid using any emotionally descriptive words that imply how the statement was said. And never editorialize – write clearly and concisely and stick to providing relevant information only.

Get Technical

Some technical tips for keeping your writing in news style:

  1. Dateline/placeline - Every news release begins with a dateline/placeline, following this format: City (in capitals), province (not P.O. style), date – First sentence of news release lede paragraph…. Provinces need only be added for smaller centres or where confusion may arise.

  2. Job titles - Only capitalize a job title when it appears before a person’s name or when it's an acronym.

  3. Quotations - Generally, start with the quotation itself, then supply the attribution.

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