Page last updated at 18:56 GMT, Friday, 22 January 2010

How to write a press release

Here is a guide to writing a press release which schools can send to their local newspapers to tell them about their involvement in BBC School Report News Day.

School Reporters at Rainham Girls School, Kent, during January's practice news day
Local newspapers like to be told about school events

A press release is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as: An official statement issued to journalists on a particular matter.

Journalists are more likely to use a press release if it is written like a news story - it's less work for them and they will have a clear idea about the story.

The basis of both a news report and a press release is the five Ws - What, Where, When, Who and Why.

You may have noticed that quite often news reports are written in single sentence paragraphs. This is because journalists are economical with their words and aim to keep their reports simple - using perhaps just one or two facts per paragraph.

The first two paragraphs of either a news story and press release are crucial - you want to draw in the reader and keep their attention.

So use those two paragraphs to give brief details of the first four Ws - What, Where, When and Who.

The rest of the press release - perhaps another four or five paragraphs - should flesh out those four Ws and answer the fifth W - Why.

It is a good idea to use a quotation as the third or fourth paragraph to give the story a human touch.

If the press release is becoming long, think about whether some of the information you have included is really necessary - but always try to give a balance of opinions.

Don't forget to attach photographs with captions. Take the photographs yourself so you can be sure you are not breaking any copyright law.

Before you send your press release to your local paper, double check what you have written to make sure all your facts are correct.

Journalists always appreciate having a contact name and direct number at the bottom of the press release to call in case they have further questions.

Teachers might find this lesson plan from the CBBC Newsround wesbsite useful:


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