The Public Relations Writer's Handbook
eBook - ePub

The Public Relations Writer's Handbook

Whitney Lehmann

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  1. 184 pages
  2. English
  3. ePUB (mobile friendly)
  4. Available on iOS & Android
eBook - ePub

The Public Relations Writer's Handbook

Whitney Lehmann

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About This Book

From pitches and press releases to news and feature stories to social media writing and more, this new book by author Whitney Lehmann and a handful of experienced contributors breaks down the most widely used types of public relations writing needed to become a PR pro.

The Public Relations Writer's Handbook serves as a guide for those both in the classroom and in the field who want to learn, and master, the style and techniques of public relations writing. Eighteen conversational chapters provide an overview of the most popular forms of public relations writing, focusing on media relations, storytelling, writing for the web/social media, business and executive communications, event planning and more. Chapters include user-friendly writing templates, exercises and AP Style skill drills and training.

Whether you're a PR major or PR practitioner, this book is for you. Lehmann has combined her industry and classroom experience to create a handbook that's accessible for PR students and practitioners alike.

A dedicated eResource also supports the book, with writing templates and answer keys (for instructors) to the end-of-chapter exercises in the text.

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Media Relations

Chapter 2

News Releases and Other Types of Releases

Whitney Lehmann and Michael Laderman
In Chapter 1, we discussed how public relations practitioners manage the flow of information between an organization and its various publics. This next section of the text introduces forms of public relations writing that practitioners use when communicating with the media, including news releases, media pitches, media advisories/alerts, public service announcements and media kits.
Just as I feel that those who communicate well can do just about anything, I also believe that those who can master the news release can write all other public relations materials, which is why I have chosen to kick off this journey of PR writing with how to write a traditional news release.


News releases, also referred to as press releases, are used by public relations practitioners for several reasons:
To communicate a one-time event (e.g., product launch or employee promotion).
To communicate a re-occurring event (e.g., annual holiday drive or highlights from a company’s annual report).
To communicate an upcoming event (also known as an “advance”).
To communicate an event that has already happened (also known as a “post release”).
To communicate updates on an ongoing matter (e.g., a company recall or other crisis that may require multiple updates).
To distribute multimedia elements to the media or other publics (such as a photo release, video news release or social media release).
And more!


In Chapter 1, we reviewed the must-know style guidelines for public relations writing: Associated Press Style, inverted pyramid, correct grammar and punctuation, block paragraphs, proper use of quotations and attribution, sensitivity to diversity, and so on.
We also reviewed tone, and how most public relations writing is written from the third-person point of view and uses pronouns such as he, him, his, himself, she, her, hers, herself, it, its, itself, they, them, their, theirs and themselves. News releases fall into the third-person category and are written with a factual tone.
In addition to these general style rules, it’s important to know that each piece of public relations writing follows a certain structure and contains certain components — an anatomy, per se. For each piece of PR writing covered in this worktext, I have outlined its structure and included a template that will help you to learn its “anatomy.”
Although each piece of PR writing does have a set structure and flow with certain components, it’s also important to know that each company or organization will also incorporate its own style guidelines and branding, including fonts, type sizes, logos, colors, etc. While the templates will give you structure, your organizations will give you style.
Let’s jump in by beginning with the structure of a news release:
Logo: The first element of a news release is the organization’s logo. Make sure to use the logo specified by the client’s brand guidelines and be careful not to distort or stretch the logo. Depending on the client’s style for news releases, the logo can be aligned left, centered or aligned right. The template provided below aligns the logo to the left.
Note: At times, news releases may include more than one logo. For example, when a client partners with another organization on an event or initiative, include both organizations’ logos.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Often written in all capital letters, “FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE” is accompanied by the release date — the date that the release information can be publicly distributed. This includes the month (abbreviated in AP Style if applicable), day and year. For example, “Feb. 6, 2017” or “June 30, 2017.” Sometimes a release may be embargoed until a certain date, meaning that the information it contains cannot be publicly distributed until that specified date.
Media Contact: The communications or PR person issuing the release on behalf of a company or organization should include his or her name, phone number and email, so that members of the media or public can contact this person with any questions.
Headline: The headline of a release should summarize what the news release is about in as few words as possible with verbs traditionally written in present tense (see exception below). For example, “Sunshine State University Healthy Heart event raises $200,000 for American Heart Association” or “Sunshine State University names Elizabeth Bailey as provost.”
Some more tips for headline writing:
AP Style calls for headlines to be written in “Down style,” meaning that only the first word of the headline and proper nouns are capitalized. For example, “More than 700 people attend annual health and wellness event at Klyde Warren Park.” “Up Style,” on the other hand, capitalizes all words with four or more letters. For example, “More Than 700 People Attend Annual Health and Wellness Event at Hyde Park.”
Note: The New York Times and People magazine are two well-known publications that break this AP Style rule and use Up Style.
Headlines typically do not use articles such a, an, the. They are simply omitted. For example:
“Sunshine State University hosts heart-healthy event” versus “Sunshine State University hosts a heart-healthy event”
Headlines do not end with a period.
AP Style calls for single quotes within headlines. For example:
“Sunshine State University presents ‘MLK: A Dream’ art exhibit during Black History Month”
AP Style calls for numerals within headlines. For example:
“Student-produced film wins 7 awards at Fort Lauderdale Film Festival”
Headlines are typically formatted in bold with a larger type size than the rest of the news release. A common type size for headlines is 24.
While headlines aim to use verbs in present tense, an exception to this rule would be when using a verb in present tense results in your organization becoming the object of the headline rather than the subject of the headline. In this case, the writer may use a verb in past tense in order to keep the organization the focus of the headline. For example, “Sunshine State University professor awarded $1 million grant from U.S. Department of State” versus “U.S. Department of State awards Sunshine State University professor $1 million grant”
Subhead: A subhead can be used to include additional information with a headline when needed. For the headline “Sunshine State University Healthy Heart event raises $200,000 for American Heart Association,” an appropriate headline might be, “Student-run event features live music, yoga, meditation and more on Fort Lauderdale Beach.”
Subheads follow the same rules mentioned above for headlines.
Some exceptions, however:
Although subheads are typically formatted with a larger type size than the rest of the news release, they use a type size smaller than the headline. A common type size for subheads is 16 or 18.
Subheads are typically not bolded but are typically formatted with italics.
Sunshine State University Healthy Heart event raises $200,000 for American Heart Association
Student-run event features live music, yoga, meditation and more on Fort Lauderdale Beach
Dateline: The dateline states the city (and state if applicable) where the news originates from. The city is written in all capital letters. The state, if included, is not in all CAPS and is abbreviated, if necessary, per AP Style (Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Ohio, Texas and Utah are never abbreviated). For example, “FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla.” AP Style calls for certain well-known U.S. and international cities, such as Miami, Boston, Chicago, Milan, Madrid, London and others to stand alone. “For example, “MIAMI.” All others not specified by AP Style are followed by their respective state.
Body of Release: The copy of a news release should follow inverted pyramid style (Chapter 1) and use block paragraphs (no indentation) that are aligned left with single spacing between sentences and a line space between paragraphs. The copy should use a smaller type than the headline/subhead. Common type sizes for the body of the release are 11 point or 12 point.
Other elements within the body of a news release:
Lede/Nut graph: The “lede” or “nut graph” of your release is the first one to two sentences or paragraphs and communicates the who, what, where, when, why and how of your release.
Quotes: Quotes should stand alone as their own paragraphs and should support, and speak to, the paragraph directly before them. Make sure to include a well-rounded variety of voices. For example, in the template below, students and the university president are quoted. Other options would have been to include quotes from attendees at the event or from a representative of the American Heart Association.
Other tips for using quotes:
As covered in Chapter 1, the proper attribution for quotes uses “said.” For example, “John Smith, said” or “said John Smith, vice president of finance.” Attribution should be set off using a comma. For example, “The exhibit is a cultural showcase,” said Morgan Manley, a sophomore at Sunshine State University. For quotes longer than one sentence, attribution should ...

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