Writing the News Release

Planning a news release involves asking the following questions:

  • What is the subject of the message?
  • Who is the message designed to reach?
  • What is in it for the this particular audience? awards? benefits?
  • What goal is the organization pursuing? purpose?
  • What do you want to achieve with the news release?
  • What key messages should this news release highlight.

Which first: good news or bad news?

Good News!-Organizations suppress news that will make them look bad.  This could be done by burying the bad news in the story. For example starting with the good facts and not getting to the bad facts until the end of the release.

Parts of a Traditional News Release:

  1. Letterhead-first page of a news release. Gives the name of the organization, address, telephone number, fax numbers, websites etc.
  2. Contacts-often the writer of the news release but can also be the organization’s director of PR
  3. headline-Brief and boldface-gives editor or journalist a quick indication of what the new’s release is about
  4. dateline-All caps…appears at the start of the lead paragraph. ATLANTA
  5. lead paragraph-In one to three sentences you must give the reader the basic details of the story
  6. body of text-inverted pyramid–most important facts to least important facts

The Do’s and Dont’s….

Do-Include links to pages, place terms in key positions, distribute releases through downstream sites such as Yahoo or Netscape

Don’t-give too many links, use poor images with low resolution, lose focus on the message

All information obtained from the book Public Relations writing and Media Techniques Sixth edition


“It is easier to make certain things legal than to make them legitimate”

Libel and Defamation

Libel is injury to reputation. Words pictures or cartoons that expose a person to public hatred, shame, disgrace or ridicule, or induce  an ill opinion of a person are libelous”—AP Stylebook

Defamation Damages are awarded by Juries under the following points:  1. The statement was published to others by print or broadcast

2. The plaintiff was identified or is identifiable

3. There was actual injury in the form of monetary losses, impairment of reputation, humiliation, or mental anguish and suffering.

4.  The publisher of the statement was malicious or negligent

Psshhhhh! That’s a Lot! As you can see defamation suits are often hard to prove.


“Watch your Langauge”—#thatisall

Copyright Law

Authorship over 1. literary works,2. musical works 3. dramatic works 4. pantomimes and choreographic works 5. pictorial, graphic, or sculptural works 6. motion pictures 7. sound recordings

A copyright protects original material for the life of the creator plus 70 years for individual works for 95 years from publication for copyrights held by corporations

  • Federal Trade Commission-Ensures that advertisements are not deceptive or misleading
  • Securities and Exchange Commission-provide guidelines on public disclosure and inside trading
  • Federal Communications Commission-provides licenses to radio and television stations, allocates frequencies, and ensures that the public airwaves are used in the public interest.
  • Food and Drug Administration-oversees the advertising and promotion of prescription drugs, over the counter medicines, and public relation firms  who “causes the misbranding of products”

All Material from Public Relations Writing and Media Techniques 6th Edition

Persuade ME!

The chapter highlights some key techniques in speaking persuasively

  • “YES-yes”…start with points that the audience will agree on which will lead to yes answers
  • Offer Structured choice…letting the audience choose between A or B “Do you want your major classes to be cut?” or “Do you want college tuition to be raised?”
  • Seek partial commitment…get a commitment on part of the receivers behalf. “You don’t have to join the gym today, but at least come to this free trial class to see for yourself just how great it is!”
  • Ask for more, settle for less…Be open to drop certain parts off of a fully completed public relations program
  1. Sender-the organization from which the message comes
  2. Message-discover the key message in which you want your readers to read
  3. Channel-The PR Job requires one to determine which medium will be the most effective in reaching the target audience
  4. Receiver
  • Publics-potential or actual audiences
  • stakeholder-groups of people who can be affected by the actions of an organization

Theories of Communication will help get your ideas accepted successfully.


Cognitive Dissonance-People will not believe a message if it is contrary to their prior beliefs.

Framing-“frame” a story to make it more interesting and understandable to readers or viewers.

Diffusion and Adoption

a.) awareness-discovering the product

b.) interest-getting more information

c.) Trial- the person tries idea works

d.) Evaluation-deciding whether the idea works for his/her own self-interest

e.) Adoption-incorporating the idea

Getting Organized for Writing

Public Relations  is more than just delivering messages to the public and writing “press releases”. It is composed of four central components that include research, planning, communication, and evaluation.

All public relations writers should keep this question in mind prior to executing a piece for an organization.  It is also important to note that the ability to write well is imperative for work in the public relations field.

The public relations writer may write for more than one target audience, where as the traditional journalist writes for one.


  • Incorrect Spelling

  • Gobbledygook and Jargon

  • Poor Sentence Structure

  • Wrong Words “affect or effect?” “assume or presume?”

  • Words that Sound Alike

  • Too many Numbers

  • Hype–using exaggerated words and phrases

  • Bias and stereotypes

  • Politically Incorrect Language