A 5-point checklist to write better news releases

Even the best writers can use a few reminders every now and then. Keep this checklist handy.

Millions of potential customers are searching online for businesses like yours.

For the best results and biggest return, all you need to do is make your story clear and engaging. This simple five-step checklist will get you there.

1. Is my headline specific?

A headline that accurately summarizes the content of the news release does more than tell readers what to expect. Search engines will rank a piece higher if the headline matches the content.

Use specific descriptors—e.g. “search-engine-friendly news release” rather than just “news release”—and skip flowery adjectives or hyperbole.

2. Did I use active voice?

Passive voice uses three or four words where you only need one, and slows down the impact of a great headline.

Replace a passive phrase like “K-12 school Lincoln Academy has been selected for recognition of achievement by ABC” with an active phrase such as “ABC selects leading K-12 school Lincoln Academy for recognition.”

3. Can I chop three words from my headline?

Brief is best for headlines, both for readers and search engines. After you write your next headline, cut it by three words. It may seem hard at first, but it’s easier than you think.

You can easily eliminate “a” and “of,” which is doubly good because search engines stumble on these words. Be ruthless without making the headline unreadable.

4. Does my release answer the five Ws?

Tell your story like a journalist by answering the five key Ws within your first paragraph: who, what, where, when and why.

Your next two or three paragraphs should contain additional detail about your story, plus a quote from someone involved in the story who can explain what this news means to your business or customers.

5. Did I do a five-step proofread?

Spelling and grammar errors in your news can turn readers off-fast. Take five minutes to work through these proofing tips for a flawless news release:

  • Read your release out loud. Break up any patches that are difficult to get through.
  • Solicit a second (or third) set of eyes.
  • Read your story backward. Because your brain knows what you meant to say, it’s easy to miss errors when you read conventionally.
  • Focus on the numbers. All percentages should add up to 100, and all phone numbers could use a quick Google search.
  • Print it out. You may focus better if you don’t stare at the same screen you wrote your release on.

A version of this article originally appeared on the Vocus blog.


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