Press releases are the main way in which your organization (be it a
campaign, Democratic Club, church, etc) will communicate with the
press. Luckily, there is a standard format. Once
learned that format, writing press releases is merely filling in the
What do you want to publicize? Publicize anything important
your group, its members, supporters, or the public. You can
a press release when you elect officers, start a major program, hold a
community gathering or function, or even have a fundraiser.
more publicity you get - especially when it's of things you've chosen
to publicize - the better your group is.
Do make sure that you are sending a timely press release - a press
release from an event a month ago is not going to do anyone any good.
PREPARING THE PRESS RELEASE
You'll start with a "hook" - something that makes your press release
newsworthy. Try to make your headline and first paragraph
interesting. Look at other headlines in the newspaper to get
idea of these sorts of things. Compare:
"The Montgomery County Democrats are having their regular meeting next
Thursday. There will be a speaker, Joe Billy Jim
will talk about revitalizing Dayton"
"Joe Billy Jim Bob, an expert on revitalizing cities, will speak about
Dayton's obstacles and how to overcome them next Thursday.
Montgomery County Democrats arranged to have Mr. Bob speak at their
If your headline and first paragraph weren’t interesting, why
would they read the rest?
You'll get more of the idea by looking at our sample press releases,
but here's a checklist of things:
Keep it to one page, and
include the basics: Who? What?
When? Where? Why?
Make certain that you
include accurate times of when the "action"
will take place, not just when your event begins
Make sure your directions to
your location are clear
Make certain to include a
contact person and their phone number
where they can be reached TODAY. Most newsrooms will not call twice for
a feature story.
Make sure your contact
person is going to be available and is
willing to appear on camera or on radio and have themselves quoted in a
Always write it from a
journalist's perspective. Never use "I" or
"we" unless it's in a quote.
quote. Think of what a reporter would ask and
what your responses would be. Write the quote the way you
Keep your news release short
... just the basics. But be sure to
explain the significance or uniqueness of your event.
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.). Close with a centered "-30-" or
on a line by itself. After that, you may add a line like the
following: "If you'd like more information about this topic,
to schedule an interview with Joe Billy Jim Bob, please call Dr. Furter
at 555/555-1212 or e-mail Frank at firstname.lastname@example.org"
SENDING YOUR PRESS RELEASE AND
Be sure to send it to the right place: call ahead to find the right
person and department, Get their name right, know their telephone
extension and e-mail address, and the section of the paper they work
for as an editor or reporter.
If you are sending by e-mail, do not send any attachments.
media workers use Macs, which may not be able to open your wonderfully
formatted Word document. Send your press release in
plaintext. If you wish to send digital pictures, call first
see what formats they can accept.
Send your release to a specific individual - the assignment editor for
TV, or the metro editor for a newspaper - by fax and e-mail.
it's convenient, also deliver a hard copy by mail. Try to
your release at least two weeks prior to the event. If you're
able to get that kind of lead time, make sure to put a note in BOLD at
the top of your release that it is "Time-Sensitive: RUSH TO
Follow through is vital. About thirty minutes to an hour
you fax a release, call to ensure that it's been received. If
you're sending it to TV, though, make sure you don't fax or call within
two hours before a newscast.
Remember: newsrooms are very busy places, so when you speak
news desk, expect them to be rushed and unable to give your call thier
full attention. Don't take it personally. Just be patient, pleasant and
persistent. If you call at a bad time, ask when would be a good time to
call back. If you have a cell phone, give the assignment
that number, so they could reach you if they need to do so.
Every now and then, it is nice to send a thank-you letter to the editor
who places your press releases in the paper. Send a brief note of
thanks, and relate any positive feedback you've gotten from the
exposure, such as increased inquiries, new members, good attendance at
certain events, or donations. The size of your organization and its
members, supporters, and fundraisers, will grow and progress in
proportion to your ability to "get the word out."
There are some special notes for different types of media.
Send your information early - at least 2 weeks prior to the event.
Know the paper: you can help yourself by knowing how the paper is
sectioned and organized. Is your event entertainment
related? It might fit in the Life section. Is it a
local activity might fit in the Neighbors section, or a large county
event that would make more sense in Local?
For print, it's always a good idea to phone the editor again the
morning of the event. Tell them you're checking to make sure
know about the story. If they don't, you tell them about it
offer to fax them the information. If they already know about it, ask
what you can do to make it easier for them to cover your event, or if
there's any questions you can answer.
If you don't succeed try, try again. Don't get discouraged if your
event doesn't make the paper the first time or even the second time.
Daily news happenings can always change the space allowed for other
news. Next time, your event might make it.
Think visually and make sure to highlight photo
They may want to take a picture, so make sure you have a visual
opportunity for them.
Newspapers cannot use still pictures from your family album, Home
Because radio has to help listeners visualize events, they pay close
attention to the following four questions. The more questions
can answer "Yes", the better your chances of getting on the
radio: Is it TIMELY? Is it LOCAL? Does it affect a
NUMBER of people? Does it have EMOTIONAL impact?
Remember that radio exclusively relies on sound. They use
interviews, music and sound effects to help the listeners visualize the
event. They primarily use digital recordings or CDs, and
use audio from home audio/video recorders or reel-to-reel
Few stations can handle audiocassettes, and none can handle audio
recorded over a phone, unless it's a phone interview.
It's absolutely vital you direct your release appropriately
For a story, news tip or event, contact the assignment desk, but for a
public service announcement or help on a community project, contact the
public service director.
Make sure your event has a visual element. Make sure your visual
element is present - at a fundraiser for a candidate, make sure the
candidate's there! Add in a contact list of qualified people
your organization who can talk "on camera" about the event.
Optimum TV times to send releases are 7am - 10am weekday mornings. 10am
is usually the best bet for your confirmation-of-receipt call, and then
use the opportunity to "pitch" your story. Ask who the assignment
editor is for the day of your event. If it is someone different than
the person you directed your release to, then the next day, send the
same release to that individual.
If you wish to hold a press conference, give plenty of notice! While
newsrooms cover "spur of the moment" press conferences all the time, it
is very difficult on the station. They would like 24 hours
so we can plan resources if they choose to cover the press
conference. If you want tv cameras to attend, don't hold a
conference when news is on the air: the cameras are busy
live stories at that time! The best times for press
are: 9am - 11am, 1pm - 3pm, and 7pm - 9pm. The worst times
press conferences are 11am- 2:30pm and 4pm-6:30pm.
Television shoots their own video, They cannot use your home video,
slides, Super 8 film, cassette tapes, or still pictures.
Don’t be afraid to send a press release – even if
another group has sent one about the same event, send your
If a media outlet gets press releases from multiple groups about the
same event, they’re more likely to decide that it’s