DIY publicity: 7 secrets of effective media releases

7 secrets of effective media releasesGood PR can be a powerful thing. People are more likely to believe (and remember) what they read in media editorial than paid advertising. And it is effectively ‘free’. So if you’re wondering how businesses get their name in the paper for all the right reasons, read on…

The good news is journalists and editors are under more pressure than ever to publish new content, both online and print. The bad news is, they are inundated with media releases every day, and most of them are quite frankly un-publishable. This gives press releases a bad name in media circles.

So it’s important to make sure yours stands out from the crowd.

1.    Work out what makes your story newsworthy 

The main reason any press release goes straight to the recycle bin is that it isn’t relevant to the publication, its audience or the current news cycle. So before you rush to send a release about your product, service or business, stop.

Why should people care about what you have to say? You may need to take your business out of the story’s focus, and that might seem counterintuitive. But if the focus of your story is your business, it’s going to read like an ad.

Instead, think about what’s relevant to your audience – what will hook a reader in? Try linking to a broader social or economic issue. For example, if you’re an inner city real estate agent or property developer, you could write a release about the ‘true cost of the daily commute’ – and position your latest market opportunity as a possible solution.

Other story angles more likely to attract interest include:

  • Stories about recent events such as a product launch, conference or exhibition
  • New products or services that solve a local or topical challenge
  • Endorsement from celebrities or well-known industry spokespeople
  • Seasonal offers, such as a Christmas VIP shopping night, back to school packages or spring cleaning tips

2.    Put on a journalist’s hat 

Make sure you’re familiar with the story style your target publications use, and mimic it. The way you write a release for the local newspaper will be quite different to one for the Australian Financial Review or an industry magazine.

Try writing it in a classic news style, such as the inverted pyramid structure.

This is one of the first tools would-be journalists learn. The most critical information goes first, and takes up the most space. This is where you answer all the big basic questions – who, what, when, where, how and how many. Supporting facts might take up the paragraph below, and any extra details can go in a sentence or two at the end.

Inverted Pyramid News Writing

Image source:

3.    Write the headline 

Now you know your story angle, write the headline. Keep it short, and make sure it gets across your main message. Don’t worry too much about being clever –succinct and direct is best. Ideally you should be able to relate it back to your newsworthy angle. So for example if you have a new app that teaches older people how to use technology, instead of making your headline ‘Gizmo is the new app for seniors’, try ‘Sydney seniors combat technology troubles’.

4.    Lose the superlatives 

Want to make it look like an independent article rather than an ad for your business? Go back over what you’ve written and look out for lofty, self-glorifying words like ‘leading’, ‘revolutionary’ and ‘innovative’. If your product really is that great, it should speak for itself.

5.    Include some salient quotes 

Quotes are essential. Every good news story has a human factor, and quotes give your story a personal context that your reader can relate to. It also gives any claims you make some credibility. You could quote yourself or your staff, but the best quotes are external voices such as your customers or industry experts. Just make sure they sign off on those quotes before you send the release.

6.    Keep it brief and to the point 

Journalists and editors are notoriously busy. One A4 page is standard for a press release. Attach some background information at the end if you wish, but be aware that they may not read it.

Make it easy for them to read. Use short sentences and paragraphs, a simple 12-point font and a standard format for dates and times. Include contact details at the end in case they need more details.

7.    Fact check everything 

Check you’ve spelled names and places correctly. Be specific with numbers and facts – avoid vague terms like ‘nearly 20 people’ and ‘in early March’. Definitive numbers and facts give you authority and credibility in a journalist or editor’s eyes, so your release will get more traction.

Have you written a successful media release? What are your top tips? Let us know below.



  1. Meghan Monaghan says:

    Although the article is aimed at media releases, it definitely could be used for many different content types! Your tips are useful and immediately actionable. I love the idea of promoting a lifestyle versus a product or service…so much more effective. Thanks for the article!

  2. Kristy Klenk says:

    When I read a press release, I always look for the quotes. I guess I want to know that there’s a real person behind the words. I know that a press release it generated internally, but I still find them interesting.

  3. Liz daRosa says:

    The devil is really in the details isn’t it Vicki? It’s also important to try to develop some type of relationship with the media outlet/journalist. It never hurts to have friends who can highlight your business! Thanks for the checklist.

    • Vicky Savellis-Grant says:

      I agree building relationship is important in business. Thanks for your comments Liz.

  4. When we launched a year and a half ago, our webmaster created an awesome press release. Might be time for a new one. Thanks for reminding me.

  5. Bobbi Raffin says:

    I love #4…. That is very true. Some get a bit too into words like that and they lose their audience in all the flare.

  6. Carol Rundle says:

    What great information! The inverted pyramid is good to know. This is definitely information to save. Thank you!

  7. Stacey McCoy says:

    Great simple tips, that are easy to follow! Thanks for adding in Fact Checking!

  8. Love this! As a 30-year journalist, I can tell you that you’ve nailed it. Great work!

  9. Katarina says:

    Thanks, some great points to think about when writing our posts.:-)

  10. Nothing worse in a blog or other publication than incorrect “facts” or an article full of misspellings. Many great tips here and all extremely relevant!

  11. Great tips! I was in journalism (oh so many moons ago, lol) and I remember the massive numbers of press releases that came through the fax machine daily … *shudders* Concise, well-written, engaging … sometimes the basics work because they’re the best tips out there!

  12. Beth says:

    Great article and great advice. I think everyone struggles with writing press releases but you really narrowed down the really important things to do and don’t do.

  13. PR releases are huge for SEO value for that reason… that they are given more “klout” for them than any Joe writing a review. Great job!

  14. Lorii Abela says:

    Great efforts in explaining the different ways of producing effective media releases and other journalistic issues. The post is regarded as highly technical issue and knowing it is very useful.

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