Writing an Article from a Press Release: What to Look for and Ignore

Press releases can be a great source of news and inspiration for writers and journalists. A good release makes it easy to write a news story, blog post, or other article, but a bad release makes it so much tougher. In a bad release, it’s difficult to tell if there’s really a story there to pitch or assign.I’ve read tens of thousands of releases and written a few hundred articles based on them, so I’m speaking from experience when I say knowing what to look for-and what to look out for-in a press release will make your job a lot easier. It will help you pitch articles, accept or decline article assignments, and do a quicker, better job on the articles you take.

What to Look For

What’s the scoop? The heading and first paragraph should give the core facts of who has done what or what is going to happen. Some releases and pitch letters do a multiparagraph song and dance instead of getting to the point. If you have to waste time just to figure out what the release is about, it’s not a good sign.

Is there any news? All too frequently, a press release doesn’t actually have any news in it. I’ve been snookered by this many times. I’ve gotten halfway through writing up an article or 15 minutes into a phone interview with the PR person before determining “there’s no news here.” Phooey.

Who, what, when, where, and why?

  • Who What’s the company’s full name, including any Co., Ltd., or LLC?
  • What Is it a product? Is it a trade show? What industry is it for?
  • When At what time did this event or piece of news take place?
  • Where What is the company’s location, both physically and online? Where is the event or news happening?
  • Why What is the reasoning behind this event or news? Why is it happening? Who is the target audience?

An astonishing number of releases gloss over these supposedly minor details and assume that the journalist recognizes certain abbreviations and knows when and where things are happening. To some extent, that’s fair. If you don’t know, it’s probably not on your beat. But there are always writers new to the beat who must waste time searching for the information.

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