HOW TO WRITE A PRESS RELEASE FOR THE UK MEDIA
20th April, 2010
Related News: News
I often come across American press releases which have been issued to the UK press as part of an engineering PRcampaign. These releases tend to get less coverage than releases prepared by UK companies, and not necessarily for the reasons you would expect.
It’s not that UK journalists have an inherent bias against our friends from across the pond. Neither do they have a problem translating the subtle differences in language. Most of us have figured out what sidewalk means by now! Having said that, if you work across both the automotive and telecoms fields in can get confusing deciding whether carrier means telecoms business or family car!
It’s actually because American press releases have a different traditional structure to British ones. Once upon a time, most technical press releases were lists of facts, quotes and figures a journalist would need to write a story about the subject. However, as the numbers of journalists on any given magazine decreased over time, press releases gradually developed into the form we know today; fully rounded journalist-like stories, written with a clear company bias.
It’s my theory that this was the point at which the UK and the US diverged. We developed different habits, to suit the different sets of habits developed by journalists in the two countries. As a result, in order to write a UK press release, it is necessary to put these habits aside and adopt the structure journalists over here are used to. So, here’s a short list, based on my experience. If anyone would like to add to this, or change it, just let me know:
1. There is no need to specify the date and location before the first sentence of the release. So you don’t need to write ‘London – April 2010’ but you should include within your first paragraph (ideally your first sentence) the ‘who, what, when, where and why’ of the release. This covers your date and location of quite nicely by itself.
2. Similarly, there is no real need to write ‘for immediate release’ on the top of the story. If it’s embargoed, you can mention this, otherwise, just get straight to the news.
3. There’s no need to capitalise the first word of the press release, any further proper nouns or abbreviations of company names. This is done for a really good reason in the states – they have more stock markets than us! So capitalisation makes it easier for financial journalists to easily pick up references that will benefit them. Similarly, you should avoid capital letters for nouns wherever possible (and within the rules of grammar!) They are needed for people’s names and company names but not for generic categories of product.
4. Put the contact information at the bottom (not the top): Your objective is to interest the journalist in your story straight away. If they are interested, they will scroll to the bottom of the page to get your contact details!
If you do all of these things, you will be able to get through the journalist filter marked ‘UK stories only’ and have your story judged on its merits alone. I’ve deliberately avoided writing here about the content of your press release and stuck to its format. However, if you do represent a stateside technology business, attempting to generate more coverage in the UK, just get in touch. I would be happy to help.
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