Press Releases

Your organization can use press releases to make announcements and draw media attention to your events, honors and reports. Here are some tips to help do that.

First, do you really need to issue a press release?

Is the subject really news that might actually get into a newspaper or a broadcast? Don’t issue a press release without a real story or your next one may be ignored.

Use them for:

  • Controversies or scandal: you have put opponents on a panel; you respond to an event.
  • An unexpected event, stunt, activity: you do something innovative, funny, weird.
  • A local celebrity: is speaking at your event, supports your view, endorses your group.
  • The local angle: the effect a national event will have on your community.
  • Announcing real work: your study results, legislative proposals, other achievements.

Can you get your news out some other way? Maybe brief one journalist you know well:  Send a tailored note. Make a personal call. Offer an exclusive to get one guaranteed published story. Remember that journalists are far more likely to read their competitors’ stories than they are to read press releases.

Quick Tips on Preparing a Press Release:

  1. Use a simple, snappy headline that tells the NEWS in the story.
  2. Make your main point in the opening paragraph.
  3. Drench the first half of the release in facts: Who, What, When, Where, Why, How
  4. Illustrate the point with a good quote from someone important to your group.
  5. Never present an opinion in anything other than quotes.
  6. Put boilerplate (boring but necessary information) at the bottom in a note to editors.
  7. At the top, put just one named contact including email, and the date of the release.
  8. Call the journalists on your mailing or email list, ostensibly to check if they’ve received it. This gives you an opportunity to ‘spin’ the story.

Imagine you are a busy journalist receiving the release.

What is this about? You will decide in three seconds max to read or throw it away.

Therefore:

  • PUT THE LEAD AT THE TOP.
  • ‘Punch up’ the headline and the first paragraph, then ‘punch it up’ again – it’s your one and only shot. Make sure you include the five Ws: Who, What, When, Where, Why.
  • Put a face on it: a human story, a real example, with quotes.
  • One page is good, two pages (front and back) are OK – 400-500 words max
  • Use quotes from senior people, but independent quotes/data are better.
  • Include sources who will be happy to give a journalist a quote or an interview.
  • Include your website and an email address or hyperlinks to additional information.

Think about your target audience(s).

  • Keep your mailing lists up to date: journalists change jobs often.
  • Send e-mail releases in the body of the message, not as an attachment.
  • Most journalists never open attachments.
  • Think outside your media lists: send to allies, funders, possible members, elected officials.