What We've Found
Press releases can respond to a recent development or announce a position, provide context and background information for breaking news, and announce a newsworthy event that the press can be invited to cover. They give the basic who, what, why, when, how and where and, with relative ease and little expense, they have the potential to reach a wide circulation through print and electronic media.
Just the Facts
If you decide a press release would be a good option for your project, contact and work with your District Public Involvement Officer. Press releases provide reporters with information they need so they can decide whether and how to cover a story. The information given to reporters should be legitimately newsworthy and mark important milestones in a group’s activities and programs.
To help ensure that news about a project gets noticed and results in media coverage, consider the following:
- Identify the news organizations that are most likely to be interested and write the release so it addresses their interests and audiences.
- Consider the effect the announcement may have on the audiences of the news organizations that receive the release, and place the announcement within the context of trends or developments that affect the target audience.
- Assemble several approved quotes from leaders or a well-known personality associated with the project to have on hand for writing releases in a hurry.
- Time releases for Monday mornings which are generally best; Fridays are the worst days for most news organizations.
- Don’t be discouraged if press releases are not always used. Many reporters save them for a future story or pass them on to other writers that they think might be interested.
How To Do It
1. Create a Strong Media Contact List
Long before submitting anything for coverage, establish a strong rapport with news staff. Create a contact list
that includes all relevant reporters, columnists, editors, news directors, assignment editors and talk show hosts at all citywide, regional and community newspapers and television and radio stations. Your District PIO may already have a press list. Other tactics are to scan the local yellow pages and call every media outlet listed or consult a national media directory such as Bacon’s directories or News Media Yellow Book.2. Identify a Newsworthy Event
Such examples include the initial formation of a group, when an important new organization or public official supports the cause, or when an event is being organized such as a public meeting
.3. Don't Bury the Lead!
Summarize what’s most important—called the lead—in the first paragraph. It should capture the most essential information and tempt the reader further. Then answer the basic who, what, why, how and where. Leave the least important information for the end so it can be edited if need be. The story should be to one- to two-pages, double-spaced.
4. Format it Like a Pro
5. A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words
- Put it on letterhead.
- Include date of issue and time of release (usually "immediate").
- Give a contact person and phone number in the top right hand corner so a reporter can follow up for questions or conduct an interview.
- Put a brief heading on the top of the page; repeat the heading in shortened form on top of succeeding pages.
Include a photo
that illustrates the project or activity that you are announcing, accompanied by a descriptive caption.6. Send the Release
Three to five days before a story should be published in a daily newspaper and up to two weeks before a weekly paper, send the release—either by mail, fax, or email. Send it to one contact, preferably someone who has covered the organization or project before. Never send the same release to two different people at the same television or radio station or newspaper.7. Follow Up
Don’t sit back and wait to see if the story appears. Follow up with a telephone call whether the release was mailed, emailed or faxed.