Writing a Press Release: Death by Six-Shooter


Hit’em hard.

I was helping one of my researchers today to edit a press release draft that he had written. When I was writing out the standard formula for a press release in an email explanation, I kept wanting to gesticulate and say that a good press release should deliver the facts quickly and succinctly — essentially six quick bullet points that form a story. Then, a particular idea suddenly struck me:

(Please let me know if this already has been used/suggested by someone else… I plead innocence through shared creativity! I also plead guilty to muddled and morbid analogies/examples, if so judged…)

Death by Six-Shooter:  A press release should knock your reader over like six quick shots that deliver the facts and importance of your story. Humor the following example:

  1. The lede:  What’s the news?  I got shot! 
  2. The nutgraph:  Where/when/tell me more!  I got shot in the gut when I was in line to buy a caramel decaf mocha at the 15th and J Starbucks!
  3. The pithy quote:  The news and its importance, in your own words:  “It really hurts, and this has significant implications for my lifespan.”
  4. The detailed description:  Paint me a picture of the story:  There’s now blood everywhere and that might be the duodenum peeking out. No one got a look at the shooter, who was last seen with a venti Americano before fleeing the scene.
  5. The background and signficance:  Here’s what else you need to know: I’ve always hypothesized that I’d bite it from a coronary from eating too much KFC. Most people have a 0.01 percent chance of dying from a gunshot at Starbucks versus a 0.09 percent chance from KFC cardiac episodes. But surprisingly, I got shot instead — making this a most unusual finding.
  6. The last word:  A pithy statement/quote to sum it up, once more, with feeling:  “Getting shot was unexpected and a hell of a way to go. But this gives us more clues as to whether getting shot while ordering coffee is a new trend for kicking the bucket.”

Feel free to improve upon this… post your versions in the comments!

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3 thoughts on “Writing a Press Release: Death by Six-Shooter

  1. Pingback: How to interact, and how to not interact, with the press « Ruthless Science

  2. Pingback: Resources: Scicomm & science journalism | Beyond the Written Word:

  3. Pingback: Resources: Science journalism | Beyond the Written Word:

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