How To Write A Press Release: The 10 Commandments Of A Great Lead Paragraph

How to write a press release is a major challenge facing both experienced and aspiring PR professionals.

Press release writing is a learned skill. This article contains press release sample writing, including that all important first paragraph.

"If it bleeds it leads" is a famous saying amongst news editors on why certain stories are on page one or first up in a TV or radio news bulletin.

With so many big news stories breaking recently, such as the Pope's death and the Navy helicopter crash in Indonesia, how can you make your media release stand out?

Well, the success of a news release being followed up by the media depends on the all important lead or first paragraph.

After the headline, this is the first message an editor or journalist will read and it is one of those critical moments of truth when you either win over or lose the media.

The first paragraph sets the structure for the whole of the media release.

Take this example of a very poorly written opening or lead paragraph that was actually sent out from the office of Northern Territory Opposition spokesman, Richard Lim on March 9, 2005.

Shadow Minister for Employment Education and Training Dr Richard Lim says that private registered training organisations which provided vocational education and training for Territorians are struggling to survive because over the last two years, the Northern Territory Government has a policy of using the Equipment Grants for government providers only, they being the Charles Darwin University and Batchelor of Indigenous Tertiary Institution.

(Source: D.D. McNicoll, The Diary, Media Section, The Australian, Thursday march 17th, 2005, pg 22.)

What is this person trying to say?

As a media and communications specialist working with clients, I find I spend at least half my writing time working on that all important first paragraph. It is were all the value is.

Here are my Ten Commandments for writing a great lead paragraph. A good lead paragraph must:

1. Summarise The Whole Story.
This is the sharp end of your message and the reader must understand what the whole story is about just by reading the first paragraph. The most important and critical information must come first.

2. Answer The Five W's.
It must answer the who, what, when, where, and why of the story.

3. Grab Your Attention.
Like a good headline, the lead paragraph must grab and hold the attention of the reader.

4. Make Every Word Count.
Aim for brevity and word economy. Less is more. Edit out words to increase impact.

5. Make Sense.
Write for meaning.

6. Be Accurate.
Always stick to the facts and be truthful, no matter how bad the news. Avoid fluff and hype. Remember it has to be newsworthy.

7. Keep To One Sentence.
Simplicity is the key to great lead paragraphs.

8. Provide Context.
If you are introducing an organisation or person for the first time, put this in context by providing descriptive, detailed and meaningful words immediately prior to the company or individual name.

For example:
Thomas Murrell - poor, no one knows who he is! International business speaker and co-author of Understanding Influence For Leaders At All Levels, Thomas Murrell - better and puts person in context. Different descriptions can be used, depending on your objectives and the context of the release.

9. Be Precise.
Precision is vital. Out of all the information you could get across what is the most important? This must be communicated in a precise way.

10. Edit, Check and Proofread A Minimum of Three Times.
Nothing will shoot your credibility down like a typo or error in the lead paragraph. First impressions count no matter how good the story is. Professionalism is essential. Get someone else to check and read your release.

Thomas Murrell MBA CSP is an international business speaker, consultant and award-winning broadcaster. Media Motivators is his regular electronic magazine read by 7,000 professionals in 15 different countries.

You can subscribe by visiting http://www.8mmedia.com. Thomas can be contacted directly at +6189388 6888 and is available to speak to your conference, seminar or event. Visit Tom's blog at http://www.8mmedia.blogspot.com.

In The News:

Just briefly  PR Week
PR Sports Photo Flashback: Aug. 7, 2020 | Sports  Plattsburgh Press Republican
PR School Board OKs bond referendum  Park Rapids Enterprise
PR Newswire - End of Day  Yahoo Finance UK

Hey, Mr/Ms Manager!

Does it really make sense to bet your PR budget... Read More

Top Ten Tips for Writing your Best Press Release Ever

Keep these few crucial details in mind when writing and... Read More

Publicity: Nailing a Media Interview, Part III (Staying on Topic)

In a media interview, always stick to your main points... Read More

Media Training: When Reporters Bully You

UNDER FIREA friend whose organization is often in the media... Read More

Publicity: Polls and Surveys Are a Great Path Free Publicity

When I search Google News for "surveys," I get nearly... Read More

Promote Your Products With A Press Release

Writing an effective press release is a way to draw... Read More

Publicity: Three Tips on Writing a Press Release

Use journalistic styleReporters are busy. Just like you.So when you... Read More

Turn Your Business? New Year Resolutions in PR Revolutions

As eyes look forward to a new business year, many... Read More

How To Get Zero Cost Publicity For Your Business Part 2

This is the ending to my previous article, How to... Read More

Hispanic Media Training: How It Can Benefit You

How can media training help you create a successful Hispanic... Read More

Publicity Performance Not Enough?

Even after a nice piece in a national publication, or... Read More

Put Yourself in the Reporters Shoes

Imagine you're the technology reporter at a daily newspaper. You... Read More

Do I Really Need a Publicist?

Are you hesitating about hiring a publicist or, if you... Read More

E-Mail Media Releases

E-mail is becoming the preferred way to receive media releases.... Read More

Publicity: Write a Letter to the Editor for Free Publicity

Ever wonder why papers devote a page or more to... Read More

Building The Best Network

If you want to succeed, build a great team. A... Read More

Managers: Heres a PR Template for You

Let's start out with a caution for business, non-profit and... Read More

Managers: Paying for PR-Lite?

As a business, non-profit or association manager, your public relations... Read More

Why Managers Need the PR Advantage

Where is there a business, non-profit or association manager who... Read More

PR: Ouch! Tells the Tale

Ever get the feeling that your public relations program isn't... Read More

Getting Free Publicity with Radio Interviews

Imagine that you are a radio producer. You have to... Read More

Do You Have A Press Package?

How do you make a friend of the media? A... Read More

Publicity: Financial Planners That Get It Follow One Rule

Advice about business and life often gets around to one... Read More

A Guide to Optimizing Public Relations Content

This guide to "SEOing" your PR efforts can help you... Read More

Free Radio Publicity for Marketing-Minded Financial Planners

Radio is a powerful publicity tool. Most stations offer news... Read More