What is a Press Release?

A press release or news release is a written or verbal communiqué directed at members of the news media for the expressed purpose of announcing something newsworthy. Typically, these press releases are mailed, faxed, or e-mailed to assignment editors and journalists at newspapers, magazines, radio stations, online media, television stations or television networks. Universities and most other organizations typically have their own public information and media relations units through which you can work to create a press release. These units often appreciate it when a draft of a press release is provided to them that the researcher has created.

Steps to Writing a Press Release about Your Published Research

The following is available as a download in PowerPoint or PDF format.  View a Sample Press Release.

Working with Your Media Office

What is a “press release”?

  • A press release is a written statement to the media. It is a product written in the third person that seeks to demonstrate to media personnel the newsworthiness of your published paper.
  • The media are more likely to consider doing a story idea if they first receive a press release.
  • It is a fundamental tool of public relations work.

Step 1 in Writing a Press Release

    It should be brief, clear and to the point: an ultra-compact version of the press release’s key point. Public relations professionals recommend writing your headline after the rest of the release is written.

Writing the Headline – A Headline Has 4 Functions

  • Gets attention.
  • Suggests a reader audience.
  • Delivers a complete message.
  • Draws the reader into the body copy.

Step 2 in Writing a Press Release

  • Write the body copy.
    The press release should be written as you want it to appear in a news story. Because media people are busy and may not have time to research your announcement, much of what you write for your press release is what the media may use in their write-up of your research.

What should appear in the body?

  • Start with the date and city in which the press release originates.
  • If your institution or organization has a media or public relations unit, the people who work there will be of great assistance; however, you can help them by providing some key facts.

What should appear in the body?

  • The lead, or first sentence, should interest the reader and say concisely what the research study found.
  • The next 1-2 sentences should then expand upon the lead, thereby filling in some details.

What else should characterize the body?

  • The press release body copy should be compact.
  • Avoid using long sentences and paragraphs.
  • Avoid repetition and use of technical language and jargon.
  • Strive for simplicity with no wasted words.

Step 3 in Writing a Press Release

Communicate the “5 Ws” (and the H) clearly.

  • Who, what, when, where, why––and how––should tell the reader everything they need to know.
  • Who did the research (eg, lead researcher or research team). What was found? When was the research carried out? Where was the research carried out (ie, institution)? Why is this research important? How can people find out more?
  • A quote from the lead researcher may add context to the findings.

Other Keys to the Press Release

  • Keep it short and to the point. The length of a press release should be limited to ~ 500 words of single-spaced text of 10-12 point font.
  • If sending hard copy, the text should be double-spaced.
  • The more newsworthy the press release copy, the better the chances of it being selected by media for wider dissemination.

Additional Assistance

Places to Email your Press Release

  • Your university or organization’s public information, public relations, or media relations office – consider calling or emailing there first; if your work was performed at, or sponsored by the university/organization, it will want to be prepared for any response that the press release generates.
  • Local newspaper, television, and radio affiliates that routinely report news and current events.
  • Some online sources assist with writing and disseminating press releases, but often at a cost to you.

Summary of What to Include in Your Email

  • Paste the whole press release in the body of an email and include it as an attachment as well.
  • Include the full name, title, phone number, and email of the contact person (you and/or the media relations contact for your organization.
  • Make sure that you or another contact person is ready to respond to any questions.

Please contact us is you need further help.