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My 10 Press Release Q’s

March 15, 2013

This week I’m working with an early stage technology startup that’s anxious to issue its first press release. A good press release, also called a news release, demonstrates to an editor or reporter that a particular event, service or product is newsworthy. It is a time-honored mainstay of the public relations business. For many people a press release is PR. In fact, press releases are just a small part of what I do and in this brave new world of social media, they can be the wrong tool for disseminating some types of news. That said, going through the exercise of gathering the building blocks for a solid new release is never a waste of time. The process itself will help validate the newsworthiness of your announcement. And once validated, you can then decide which delivery medium best fits your message.

In my early days at Microsoft I worked on a project assisting third-party companies in drafting their press releases in support of a Windows product launch. In the space of a single week, I churned through over 100 releases. Many smaller companies needed a lot of hand holding – they weren’t sure where to start. Worse yet, others dove in confidently, but drafted press releases with so many holes that is was easier to start again from scratch. From that experience, I developed a questionnaire I still use today to help me formulate a solid news release. This list of questions is heavily influenced by my colleagues on various PR teams and the great outside agencies I’ve worked with along the way. It’s not rocket science. Journalism students will recognize them as digging for the “Five Ws” (who, what, where, when, why — and how). Here are the questions to ask before you start the actual writing:

Tom’s 10 Questions

1 – What is the one concept you want to convey in this press release?
2 – What is the role of this release in meeting larger PR goals?
3 – What are the key product/service features? How do they translate to benefits?
4 – What are the key messages for this release?
5 – Who is your target audience?
6 – What are your coverage expectations?
7 – What would your ideal article headline look like?
8 – What message do you want reflected in your company/customer quote(s)?
9 – What other company product/services will be impacted by this release?
10 – What is the call to action? What are the pricing and availability details?

The answers to these 10 questions provide the necessary building blocks for constructing a solid press release with realistic expectations of its impact. If you can’t answer them, or you don’t like the answers you’ve come up with, maybe you are not yet ready to make your news. But if you can, you have the raw materials to produce a number of other marketing communications collateral such as blog posts, advertorials, op-eds, etc. All you have to do now is follow the appropriate journalistic guidelines and formatting conventions. Oh, and be sure to add a healthy sprinkling of the magic dust that makes whatever you produce newsworthy and engaging.

Three Bonus Logistical Q’s (to get the job done!)
1 – Who is the press release owner/writer? (best not to split these)
2 – Who provides the approvals? (broken down by contribution, and overall)
3 – What’s the timeline? (create a work back schedule for every piece of the puzzle)

AP Stylebook -

Follow the appropriate journalistic guidelines and formatting conventions when drafting your press release. AP Stylebook graphic – source:

One Comment
  1. Press Release Writing Services permalink

    Answers to those ten questions are required. You did an excellent job in posting this information.

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