The most important thing to remember when you're planning a press release is that it's actually very straightforward. It's not a major article, it's a short news story, even if the reporters do eventually decide to use it as the basis for a longer in-depth feature.
Tone of voice
Think about the audience for the newspaper that you are targeting and write your press release with this audience in mind to help the journalists using your copy.
Avoid using hyperbole - 'extremely fantastic', 'wonderful', 'amazing' are all words that are going to put journalists off! The same goes with metaphors - make sure you speak in as plain English as possible, even if you are expressing complex information, you need to make sure that this is understood by everyone.
It is also worth noting that you shouldn't make reference to yourself in the first person. Make sure you reference your organisation name fully, for instance 'Arts Council England are today announcing...' rather than 'we are announcing'.
Press release - write this at the top of the document.
[Date] - you might prefer to date it for the actual day of the event the press release is about, in which case you should say 'Embargoed until [date]'. An embargo means that the release will share confidential information with the journalist, but it is shared with the understanding that it is meant to remain confidential until the stated publishing date. If you embargo the information journalists won't use it before that time but it also means you can't use it either. Use embargoes only when really necessary.
Headline - keep this short and interesting.
Structure - all press releases should follow this standard structure. This is the same structure as a newspaper news story. It works on the 'triangle' principle, starting with a concise statement of the most important information, and then broadening out to more detail which is relevant but not essential.
Last paragraph - quotes from a named person - either the person responsible for the activity, someone else involved in it, or someone who endorses the activity (for example, someone from the Arts Council, a key stakeholder, or perhaps a Councillor in your local area). Be careful that not all the quotes say the same thing!
Contact for more information - put this in bold so it stands out.
Note to editors: - These should come at the end of the press release and include the following:
- supported by the National Lottery through Arts Council England. To find out more about the Arts Council visit artscouncil.org.uk
- further information that may be of interest, for example more information on your organisation or relevant artists
- you may want to explain which artists are available for interview
- point those receiving your press release to your social networking platforms
If your funding was through Grants for the arts, include the Grants for the arts funding logo one of the bottom corners of the press release.
Keep the full length of your press release to two pages maximum, shorter if possible. Write it in clear, simple language that everyone will understand and that doesn't require specialist knowledge of the arts.
Your activity is interesting - after all, that's why it was awarded a Grants for the arts grant. Just concentrate on explaining that.
See a sample press release here.