How to Write a News Release

Back when I was a journalist, I saw more attempts at eye-catching news releases than you could shake a stick at. Releases in color-coordinated folders, accompanied by a pile of color brochures on slick paper. Releases accompanied by little giveaway items, like a pen or paperweight graced (of course) with the sender’s corporate logo. Sometimes we’d get really good swag, like a t-shirt or a CD, with a news release.

But tchotchkes don’t make a story newsworthy. If you want a reporter to do a story about your announcement or event, the only thing you have to send is a good news release. (I’m using the term “news release” instead of the more common “press release” because I worked in broadcasting, and broadcasters – ahem – don’t have presses.)

A good news release has a specific format. Journalists get lots of releases every day, and they expect to see certain bits of information in specific places on the page; don’t make them hunt for yours. Here are nine easy steps to formatting and sending your own news release:

1. At the top of your page, left-justified, type “FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE”. (You can play around with embargoes if you want, but unless you have a really good reason for keeping your news under wraps until a certain date – for example, if national security is at stake – I wouldn’t bother.)

2. Double-space, center your next line, and type a pithy headline, in title style. Like this one: Award-Winning Local Author Releases New Book

3. You can drop down a line and add a secondary headline, but it’s not necessary.

4. Double-space again and type a dateline, like you see in newspapers (or used to). Follow it with an em dash. Like this: Arlington, VA (Nov. 23) –

5. Then, starting on the same line, write a paragraph that sums up your news. Keep in mind that the overarching question a harried reporter will be asking him- or herself when he or she reads your release is, “Why should I care?” So be sure your paragraph is concise, but includes all of the relevant five Ws and an H (who, what, when, where, why, and how). Make sure to write this paragraph, as well as subsequent paragraphs, in third person.

6. Your second paragraph should give more details about your book. It’s often good to stick in a quote from somebody, so if a reviewer used a catchy phrase, put it here.

7. Your third paragraph is your bio. Be sure to include a link to your Amazon author page and/or your blog.

8. Now double-space, center your next line, and type three hashtags with no spaces in between. Like this: ###

9. Then double-space again, left-justify the next line, and type your contact info. I would include your name, phone number, and e-mail address.

That’s it. The whole thing should be no more than 500 words long.

Now that you’ve got your release, you need to send it out. has this list of websites that will distribute your release for free. Also check the “Contact Us” page on the websites of your local newspaper and radio and TV stations; you will usually see an e-mail address for news releases or news tips there. Put your release into the body of your e-mail, instead of attaching it; reporters, like intelligent people everywhere, won’t open an attachment from someone they don’t know.

Off you go. Just promise you’ll remember us after you become a media star.

Author: Lynne Cantwell

Lynne Cantwell grew up on the shores of Lake Michigan. She worked as a broadcast journalist for many years; she has written for CNN, the late lamented Mutual/NBC Radio News, and a bunch of radio and TV news outlets you have probably never heard of, including a defunct wire service called Zapnews. But she began as a fantasy writer (in the second grade), and is back at it today. She currently lives near Washington, DC. Learn more about Lynne at her blog and at her Amazon author page.

26 thoughts on “How to Write a News Release”

  1. Thank you so much for this post, Lynne. This is something I’ve been struggling with (so I’ve stayed away from doing it). Your concise, helpful instructions make me think I can do it after all. I’m going to try this out!

  2. Good article. Sound advice. And I’m inclined to add — please please please think long and hard before picking up the phone to chase the press release. And if you do, identify yourself and the press release up front and briefly.

    I speak from wearied experience here.

    Every day I am fielding calls from (supposedly) professional PRs and marketing bods who launch straight in with: “Hello, I’m chasing the press release I sent you. Will you be using it?”

    And I’m there, biting back my exasperation as I explain that a) I have quite possibly received it, b) I have no idea whether I have/have not/will use it since I don’t know what the release is. Then I have to grill them to find out who they are, where they’re from, and prompt them to describe the release to see if that will ring any bells. You’ll be suprised how many struggle to summarise the release.

    Most of these releases were not worth the wasting of my time with the phone call even if I had or was planning to use them, and a hell of lot are spiked because they’re not press releases at all — just adverts for their clients they were trying to pass off as news.

    It does amuse me, though, when I tell them that I get rather a lot of press releases in a day so they’ll need to be a bit more specific. I often get the crestfallen responses of ‘Oh’.

    Generally speaking, if a journo is going to use the release, they’ll use it. If they want more info, they’ll get in touch.

    Hope that doesn’t sound too ranty!

    1. Not at all, Mark, and you’re absolutely right. I think typically, p.r. folks make those calls because they have no way to gauge their effectiveness otherwise. In your case, I would bet some of the release writers are handing off their contact list to an intern — hence the inability to tell you what the release was about. 😉

  3. What a great tutorial Lynne. Thank you. This is the kind of information that really sticks in my head [although I have bookmarked the post because I am getting old…]

  4. This is an extremely useful post Lynne, defintely one for bookmarking and coming back to when needed – thanks!

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