Press release format

(leave room 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. For this mock release, 

the slugline is "Only Valid Release".

                Indentation for paragraphs should be exaggerated,

two inches 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 assessment exams!

  • 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 photo.