Press release format
for your letterhead)
Contact: Alton Miller, Publicity Director
Phone: 312-555-5555 ext. 555
Night line: 312-555-5555
September 30, 2014
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
INSTRUCTOR DICTATES "ONLY VALID RELEASE FORMAT"
"There is only one correct format for a press
release," Columbia College instructor Alton Miller said today,
"and that's the way your boss wants it."
In his PR Writing class at Columbia, Miller
requires that releases be typed with one-inch margins all
around. Phone numbers belong on the upper left, with a night
line (usually the publicist's home phone) supplied. "An editor
working late may need to be able to reach you for that one final
detail," Miller says. "It can mean the difference between a
story that makes the papers, and a story that gets killed."
One line down from the second phone number
line, flush right, should be the date the release is distributed
(faxed, mailed or delivered). On the next line, also flush
right, should read FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, or FOR RELEASE ON
____(date)____ if the story is to be held for a later date.
- more -
ONLY VALID RELEASE PAGE TWO
The first page should always break at the
end of a paragraph. Paragraphs should be short -- not more than
three sentences -- so this is easy to arrange. At the bottom of
the first page should appear the word "more", offset with hyphens
and spaces as shown.
The press release should fit on two pages,
and the first should begin about one-third the way down, to leave
room for newspaper editors' notes. The headline should be
succinct, attention-grabbing. A one- or two-word "slugline" on
page two, upper left, should use a word or two from the headline
on page one, in case the pages get separated.
Indentation for paragraphs should be exaggerated,
15-20 spaces or so. Body text should be justified on the left
only, not on the right. Hyphens should not be used to break a
word between lines, even when that leaves trailing white space.
To communicate more information than can be fitted
in one and a half pages, the publicist can attach fact sheets,
backgrounders, or other additional information, Miller says. "In
any case, no matter what the temptation, each press release
should be kept to just two pages," he says.
Miller explains that he doesn't really believe his
is the only right way to prepare a press release. "The truth is,
there are many valid styles," he says. "But because each agency
you work for -- or each client you serve -- will require you to
conform to their preferred style, it's good training to accept
the idea that for every release there's only one valid format."
Press releases should close as shown below.
- end -
A few notes:
See separate guidelines for online press releases and media alerts.
At the end of the release, I prefer
"end" rather than "30" or pound signs, only because so much of our
work will sooner or later be online, where symbols and numbers
have different meanings that could cause confusion. The student
should be aware, of course, that these other traditional symbols
are often used -- if only because they sometimes come up on
There's a newspaper editor's convention of using "ADD
ONE" instead of my choice, "page two". I've avoided that for the
same reasons of clarity.
I insist that you keep your release to no more than two
pages (this example is a little over 400 words) because your
objective is (a) to interest the editor and convince him or her to
assign this story to a reporter, and (b) ultimately to place a
story of about that length. You need to show the editor not that
it's a good story only if there's full page of newsprint available
for it -- but that it's a good story even given the editor's
length considerations. Of course you will sometimes have a more
complicated tale to tell, requiring additional materials,
sidebars, photos, etc., to do it justice. To help inspire these,
use additional materials in your press packet -- but also include
as your "platform" a good two-page press release.
Do you feel that you don't have enough material to write
two pages of press release? You certainly don't want to pad your
release with empty stuff just to achieve a 2-page length. But
perhaps the problem is that you haven't exploited all the
available material. Remember -- if all you can come up with for a
story is a paragraph or two, you are in effect asking the editor
for no more than a little news note. Some times that's all you can
expect, but our objective is usually to stimulate the editor --
and the reporter -- to produce a nice big story with a nice big