10 Tips for Writing Strong Lead Paragraphs in News Releases


Press ReleaseEntire industries have been brought to their knees by the digital economy. We don't know, for instance, if the music industry or the news media will ever recover. But where one industry suffers, another finds opportunities. For PR professionals, the beating that the news media has taken has brought new life to the news release—good, useful content is needed to fill the insatiable craving for content on social channels.

Indeed, the basics of writing great news releases are more important than ever. Outside of your headline, most of your focus should be on crafting a strong lead paragraph—that's where your news release lives or dies. These 10 tips from Don Bates, an instructor in writing at NYU and the founding director of the master’s degree program in Strategic Public Relations at the Graduate School of Political Management at George Washington University, will help you increase the odds of your news release getting picked up and shared by overtaxed journalists and bloggers.

  1. Focus on the five W’s: who, what, when, where and why.
  2. Before writing, decide which aspects of story are most important. Emphasize these aspects.
  3. Explain the less important aspects in the second or third sentence.
  4. Be as specific as possible.
  5. If your lead is too broad, it won’t inform.
  6. Minimize hyperbole, the bane of PR writing.
  7. Be brief. Readers want to know why your story matters to them and won’t wait long for answer. Leads are typically one sentence, often two, and 25-30 words [rarely more than 40].
  8. Use active sentences. Strong verbs make leads lively and interesting. Passive constructions sound dull and leave out important information, such as the person who caused the action.
  9. Consider the audience’s knowledge. In today’s media culture, most readers don’t need a lot of background. Context is key.
  10. Be credible. A lead paragraph is an implicit promise to readers. Deliver what you promise.

Get a one-day immersion in the craft of PR writing on Aug. 5 in San Francisco at PR News' Writing Boot Camp.

Follow Steve Goldstein: @SGoldsteinAI




2 Comments

avatar

About Steve Goldstein

Steve Goldstein is editorial director of events for Access Intelligence’s PR News brand, which encompasses premium, how-to content, data and competitive intelligence for public relations professionals; PR News Online; PR News conferences, webinars and awards programs; and PR News guidebooks. Previously at AI Steve was editorial director of min, min ’s b2b and minonline as well as managing editor of CableFAX: The Magazine and CableWorld. Before joining Access Intelligence, he was executive editor of World Screen News, and editor of Film/Tape World, which covered film, television and commercial production in the San Francisco Bay Area.



Deals of the Week

Get $150 Off PR News' Social Media 20/20 Summit

PRN_summit_ads_175x135_ep

This gathering will feature some key influencers and operators in social media, sharing their knowledge and experience in a full day of eye-opening sessions. You will take away practical knowledge to increase the visibility of your brand and expand its reach on social media.

Use code “150off” at checkout.

Get $50 off PR News' Media Relations Guidebook

book-mediarelations-180x150

This 8-chapter resource contains practical implications for some of the most innovative developments in media relations, including the technologies, methodologies and mannerisms that determine the ecosystem in which PR pros practice this essential part of their craft.

Use code “50off” at checkout.

Save $100 on a PR News Subscription

Let PR News become your weekly, go-to resource for the latest PR trends, case studies and tip sheets. Topics covered include visual storytelling, social media, measurement, crisis management and media relations.

Use code “SUBDEAL” at checkout.

  • Jen

    the contact should be at the bottom.

  • Professor Value

    “First, please notice the president’s picture I’ve included with this news release.” :-)