Writing a press release could be a simple and straight forward activity.
But it’s not something that comes naturally to everyone.
Even if you have worked in Marketing or Communications field for several years, chances are you have been doing a lot of other tasks and activities but writing a news/press release.
If for one reason or another you find yourself in a situation where you have to write a press release and you don’t know how or where to start, you can use this simple ‘formula’, which is based on the basics of news writing.
In Journalism 101 these are considered the elements of news. They are known as the 5Ws – Who, What, When, Where, Why and 1H – How – of news writing.
Even if you are writing materials or documents other than a news/press release, using this simple formula could work wonders because it will help you cover all the basic information that should be included in the document. If you use this as your guide to write your next press release or news article, you will be off to a great start.
5Ws and 1H
Let’s use the monthly Reserve Bank of Australia’s (RBA) interest rate decision as an example for a news/press release.
Sydney – DATE: The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) lifted interest rate by .25 basis points during its latest meeting in Sydney today. The increase in rate came after more than six months of being on hold as the central bank cited inflation as the main reason for its move. The Aussie dollar jumped above .7300 cents after the announcement as traders added to their long Aussie positions.
Now let’s identify the 5Ws and 1H in this sample news item.
- Who – this refers to the doer of the action, and in this case it is the Reserve Bank of Australia. In general news, the more popular or well-known the doer (the Who) is, the bigger the news could be. For example, the Prime Minister will always attract more prominent news when he delivers a speech than an ordinary office worker speaking at an industry conference.
- What – this refers to the actual action, which in this sample is the lift in interest rate. In most cases, the more people are affected by the action (the What) the bigger the news becomes. For example, the RBA interest rate decision is much bigger news than when a bank announces a new credit card service to business clients.
- When – refers to the specific time and date when the action or event happens, which is today. There are instances when this element could refer not just on the actual date but on the implied relevance of the time or situation.For example, when the ban on short selling some Australian stocks was introduced a few weeks after the global financial crisis hit in 2008, the When element was crucial as the announcement came immediately after some stocks were almost on freefall. In that instance, the When of the news was not limited to the actual date of the announcement but also on the timeliness of the action.
- Where – refers to the place or venue of the event, which in this example is in Sydney. In some news announcements, the Where could be used to highlight an event or to emphasize a contradiction or irony to make the news more interesting. You may have noticed many politicians would go to a manufacturing site or a school when they announce some initiatives or funding that would affect those areas.
- Why – this may not always be obvious but it is an important element and can refer to the reason behind the event or situation. In this case, the reason for the lift in interest rate is inflation. In most cases, the Why is the main reason for the announcement, so make sure that you highlight the most important Why of your news to make it interesting.For example, if your company decided to develop a new reporting feature in the software service that you provide because thousands of clients have asked for it, you can mention that as the Why in your announcement and you can highlight its benefits.
- How – similar to the Why, this element is sometimes not obvious or not relevant. But there are cases when the How could be major and central element in the news particularly in cases that involved death or natural calamities.In this case, the How is not too important as the announcement could have been made through the usual press release distribution process from the RBA.
Once you have the 5Ws and 1H covered, you could be more creative and you can try different variations. For example, you may want to start with the Where or When instead of the What or Who. As long as you include all these elements within the press release, you would be telling an informative and complete story.
If this has inspired you to write your next press release but you’re still a bit unsure, contact us and we will be happy to help you get started. In our next post, we will give a sample press release that you can use as a template for your next company announcement.