You've received by fax or email a press release from a public relations officer promoting the latest film, or issuing a statement on behalf of a major personality, or publishing earnings for a top company. What should you do? Here are some tips on how to turn what is usually a very dull and dry press release into a full-fledged news article.
Where is the news?
Skim through the press release to identify the piece of information that answers the question: Why should I care? This is the essence of news. If you don't care, your readers most likely won't, either. Press releases are often long. They can even be dozens of pages long. Your job is to find the one issue that's the most interesting.
Start your article with the most interesting or most unusual piece of news from the information you've decided is important enough to publish to the general public. This will be your news angle or the "wow" factor. For example, if the press release deals with the opening of a new Mexican grill and Sylvestor Stallone is noted as one of the owners, you could begin your article lead with "Sly likes it hot."
Write your article in a light, conversational tone and do not copy anything from the press release. This is plagiarism. You've got the general idea of what has happened. Your job is to make people want to know more than what you do. To do that, you have to draw them in with good writing. Press releases are usually dry and are not always written by good writers.
Feel free to use any quotes from the press release in your article if you think it adds something extra to your story and don't forget to attribute them. Ror example "quote quote," Person A said in a press release issued by Name of Company. Note that if they quotes are boring, they will not enrich your article and instead just bore the reader.
Use the contact information of the public relations officer or publicist provided at the bottom of the press release to call the company and ask for any clarifications for any information you may have not understood. You may also opt to request more information about what they have conveyed in the press release. Perhaps he has contact information of other people who would be interesting to interview.
Take the initiative to interview your own sources as well. People who may offer a critical view opposite to the praising tone in the press release, or clients of the company in question. They may offer more insight and give you a much more interesting angle, making your article seem more critical and objective than a regular press release.
Don't allow any public relations officer to pressure you into writing an article promoting his or her firm or person he is representing. Your job is to be a critical watchdog and publish stories you think will interest the public. If there is no news, there is no news article.