Tips, tricks, advice and answers for the 21st century global workspace
I’m a young communications professional and my job often involves sending press releases to media outlets. I always thought that a good press release should contain the key information about your company and products in a newsworthy context. But what I’m finding is that increasingly, my press releases need to be written as an interesting, readable article rather than a factual summary. This is because many web and smaller print publications don’t have the staff to turn a basic press release into a full story! So I often feel like I’m a journalist more than a P.R. professional, and spend an inordinate amount of time trying to find gripping angles for ‘the piece’ or press release to ensure that maximum publications run it. My problem is that I’m not a journalist—so could you please give me some tips on how to write a good newspaper article?
– Writerly Blocked
A: Dear Blocked,
Don’t despair, our Baird’s CMC associates are pros at writing newspaper articles (in fact, many of our shareholders began their careers as journalists covering everything from wars to trends in the telecoms industry). Below is the basic how-to on writing a good news piece, which should never exceed 750 words:
- Introduction: The intro should be about 3-5 sentences maximum. It should clearly and simply state the who, what, where, why, when and how of your story. You can begin with the catchiest idea: either a quick human-interest anecdote or a gripping fact that relates to the central idea of your story (1-3 sentences).
- Nutgraph (part of intro): The nutgraph is the hypothesis of your story – It tells the readers why they are reading this piece. This should clearly state the main point of the story in 1-2 sentences – this is the big picture. Once the nutgraph is established, go into the three supporting points in three key paragraphs. Each point should relate to the nutgraph, and should be written in order of importance
- First supporting idea (typically, about 3-5 sentences): This could include a quote from someone on-the-ground; a human angle to illustrate the first key point of your story.
- Second supporting idea (typically, about 3-5 sentences): You could use a study or statistic to illustrate the second key point.
- Third supporting idea (typically, about 3-5 sentences): You could use a quote from an academic or opinion leader to give a big-picture opinion about the central idea of your story (i.e., the nutgraph).
- Conclusion: In 2-3 sentences, sum up the nutgraph again. You can use a particularly evocative quote from one of your interviews, or else use a famous quote to end the piece with.
Hope this helps—and if communications doesn’t work out, you always have a career in journalism!