How to Write a Press Release for a College Seminar

Press releases help reporters write stories and fill the pages of newspapers.
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A press release for a college seminar, like most standard press releases, follows a basic format and includes a headline and dateline, a strong and inclusive lead, paragraphs with the inverted pyramid structure and a boilerplate about the department, professor or guest conducting the seminar. Because press releases are usually intended to generate publicity through stories in newspapers or other news media, they should also be written with an audience of journalists in mind. It is therefore important to establish what is newsworthy about the college seminar as early as possible in the press release.

1 Format

Use regular 8 1/2 by 11 inch paper. Include the date of your release and contact information for the department or professor hosting the seminar -- address, telephone number and email address -- in single space format and aligned on the left margin. Logos embedded in this letterhead are also common. Contact information for the recipient should also be included in the same format. Leave an extra space, then write in all capital letters the date when you would like the information to be published, such as “RELEASE ON JUNE 11.” Double space the rest of the document, including the headline, lead, body paragraphs and boiler plate.

2 Headlines

Effective headlines are written in all caps, are no more than one line and read like newspaper headlines. For example: “NEWS-WORTHY ISSUE BRINGS PROFESSOR JOE CELEBRITY TO CAMPUS.” According to the University of Chicago, even if the news source uses a different headline than what you provided, it can still suggest the newsworthiness of the seminar to both reporters and editors. Before your first paragraph, include a dateline in “City, State” or “City, Country” format followed by a hyphen.

3 Lead and Hook

Summarize the relevance of the seminar in the first sentence; this is called the “lead.” Often, reporters won’t read past the lead if they deem it to be less than newsworthy. Answer the "who, what, when, and where" of the story immediately, as in: “Professor Joe Celebrity will visit the University on June 18 to unveil a new research project.” The next sentence, called the “hook” according to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, should provide any information that you couldn’t include in the concise lead. For example: “Professor Celebrity is the leading authority on the news-worthy issue and recently met with the presidential cabinet to discuss solutions.”

4 Body Paragraphs

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology suggests constructing body paragraphs in an inverted pyramid style. In other words, include the most important information first and the least important information last, descending in importance with each paragraph. Try to anticipate questions that reporters might have and try to write an interesting story that provides the answers.

5 Boilerplate

The last paragraph should provide information about the department or professor hosting the seminar, such as the department’s interest in the seminar’s topic. Include general information about tickets, times and contact information for additional questions about the seminar.

Writing in the Lehigh Valley, Jordan Weagly has been a professional writer since 2007. His work has appeared in “Travel Host” and “The Keystone.” Weagly has more than four years of experience as an English tutor and holds a MA in English as well as a BA in professional writing from Kutztown University of Pennsylvania.