The art of writing press releases

Press releases is an interesting and delicate thing. They may not be important for the actual research in the long run, but they are in the short run as media coverage is both a way to do popular science and to acknowledge the researchers that were involved. Press releases are written for journalists and the media, and they want them to be short and catchy. But they are provided by the researchers, and they want them to contain much information about the study and (and this is also important) the research group. And they are distributed by an organization, for us it is usually a university, and that organization wants to promote its work. How do one balance all these things?


I’m involved in two press releases at the moment. We usually run studies with several researchers involved, from several organisations. The basic rule is that the organization from where it was conducted and coordinated do the international press release, but sometimes the host organization is not the best one involved at this (although SU is good at it, and so is UU where I am sometimes involved in this kind of work, so this is usually not a problem for the once done in my laboratory). And usually there are >10 researchers involved, all providing important parts to the study, but there is only space for a few quotes in a press release. A lot of things to balance. In the end I usually try to keep the once I coordinate no longer than one page, split up in two parts (expecting some newspapers to use only the first part), and I try to squeeze in three, or sometimes four quotes. This gives enough space to retell the important parts of the story, and acknowledging at least a few of the involved researchers. Media coverage is a part of our third task that should be taken seriously, and press releases are always compromises between all needs and wants.

One of our press releases, about nomads