New Rules for Canadian Government Press Releases

The Canadian government has created new rules for press releases. The Government Communication Service explains the change on its website

"The Government of Canada is retiring the traditional press release format in favour of a more digital-friendly product that makes the key messages of announcements clearer, quick facts more accessible and integrates more effectively with social media channels. . . . The old style release – which hasn't changed in over 50 years – disappeared on 31 December 2013.  Gone with it are the dense blocks of text that make it hard to read, the use of long titles in headlines and leads and the use of complex jargon."

For years, people have predicted the death of the press release, but it has lived on. This change doesn't quite kill the traditional press release, but it does shorten it, asking for just two or three paragraphs of text and the following: 

  • develop catchy headlines and sub-headlines
  • write concise and clear opening paragraphs that contain the 5 Ws (who, what, where, when, why)
  • select key facts that capture the reader's attention
  • draft quotes that are meaningful and succinct
  • repurpose the quick facts and quotes for Facebook and Twitter posts, and
  • offer associated links that provide additional context to help the reader better understand the issue

A sample release shows little paragraph text, several bullets, and links to more information (visit page to enlarge). 

Canada press release

Discussion Starters: 

  • In what ways is this new format consistent with business writing principles? 
  • What, if anything, could be lost with this new format? What could the reader miss?