1. A News Angle. Your press release needs an angle that shouts out why it should be read and followed up on NOW. What's so special about your release's topic and why should a reporter care about it TODAY? Linking your press release to current events, the time of year, or hot topics in the news is a good way to add a news angle to your press release.
2. Objectivity. Press releases should be as objective as possible. They are not marketing or advocacy pieces. Try to write them as if you were a reporter yourself, or at least someone not directly affiliated with your organization.
3. Quotes. Quotes bring your press release to life. Watch out for stiff or bureaucratic language. Instead, think of questions a reporter might ask and what your responses would be, in conversational language. Use those as your quotes.
4. A Contact Person Who Can Be Reached Today. Every press release should include information on how a reporter can reach you for more information. Don't list your office phone number if it will trap a reporter in voicemail limbo. Don't list yourself as the contact if you'll be in meetings all day. Reporters are on tight deadlines. Tell them whom they can call and and how they can reach those contacts today.
5. Boilerplate at the Bottom. Always include as the last section of your press release a paragraph with the heading "About (your organization's name)." It should contain the basic information about your organization (e.g., its mission, major programs, when it was founded, etc.). Don't include this kind of background in the release itself--it's not news.