Press releases (or media releases)
are one of the most effective ways for governments to get their
messages out. They allow any level of government to create its own
news stories and circulate them to the public through media of all
A good press release is a clear,
focused and readable account of whatever information a government
office or agency wants the public to know about. Press releases are a
lot like news stories, and if well-written are often reprinted with
few changes in newspapers and other media outlets, ensuring the
message gets passed on to the public intact.
The Parts of a Standard Press
Press releases usually have these
parts in this order (although you will find slight variations):
- letterhead or logo of the
- release time (either
"For Immediate Release" or for release on a specific date)
- headline that highlights
the message (e.g., NEW CHILDRENS MENTAL HEALTH PLAN FIRST IN
CANADA) in uppercase letters, boldface, or both
- location (e.g., Victoria,
- body (57 short
- end: marked by
- contact name and
Structuring the Press Release
Start with strong headline. Decide
what the most important element of your piece is, the part you most
want your readers to remember. State it in 10 words or less. Ask
yourself if what you wrote would make sense to someone not familiar
with the subject.
Start your first paragraph with a
strong lead, something that will catch your readers attention
and lead them into the rest of the piece. It doesnt have to be
clever, it just has to grab your readers interest.
The lead paragraph should cover
who, what, where, when and how, as applicable. This paragraph conveys
all the important information.
Then present the details of the
story, following inverted pyramid order, starting with the most
interesting or pertinent information, followed by the rest of the
details in order of decreasing importance.
Keep the length to 12 pages,
57 paragraphs, and no more than 3 sentences per paragraph.
To figure out what to include
- Ask yourself what you
want the story to do? Do you want support? attention? awareness?
Write your piece with that purpose in mind.
- Put the things you want
noticed ahead of other details.
- Original: On
Monday, February 7, Minister for Children and Family Development
Gordon Hogg and Minister of State for Mental Health Gulzar Cheema
announced a new plan to address children's mental health problems.
Canadas first comprehensive, provincial mental health plan
for children was released today by Gordon Hogg, Minister of Children
and Family Development and Gulzar Cheema, Minister of State for
- The remaining paragraphs
should give more details, explain as necessary, and emphasize your
- Support your message with
statistics or quotes.
- Keep each statement and
paragraph short and focused. Get to each point as quickly as possible.
- If you are including an
important announcement (a new program, policy change, funding) make
sure it is clear, accurate, complete and easily found in the text
(usually in its own paragraph).
Remember, the aim of the press
release is to have the greatest impact with the fewest words.
Writing and Editing Tips
- Keep things short, simple
and to the point.
- Keep the writing clear,
tight and straightforward.
- Use a conversational
tone, but keep it neutral and relatively formal (look at sample
government press releases to get an idea of the appropriate tone).
- Put the most important
details who, what, when, where, why and how in your
- Write a concise middle only the details that reflect
exactly what you want to say.
- Write a brief, concise
ending that ties things off (conclusion) or leads on (refers to
- Edit, using these
- Will your readers
be able to visualize what youre talking about? Use words that
people can "see" (places, people, things), rather than
abstract terms (strategies, concepts, initiatives,
- Have you
eliminated every unnecessary word?
- Have you provided
good transitions between paragraphs?
- Have you varied
the length of your sentences? Too many short sentences can give a
choppy quality to your writing.
- Do the words
sound conversational in tone? Read your article aloud and edit as you