What We've Found
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
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
- 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
a Strong Media Contact List
Long before submitting anything for
coverage, establish a strong rapport with news staff. Create a contact
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
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
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
- 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.
5. A Picture is Worth a
Include a photo that
illustrates the project or activity that you are announcing, accompanied by a
6. Send the Release
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.
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.
A statement or story
an organization prepares and distributes to the news media.
Use It If...
- You need free publicity for your organization.
- You need to let the public know about an event. You need to reach a wide
audience to increase awareness about your project.
- You are expecting press releases account to cover all public communication.
Press releases should not be used indiscriminately and routinely. If they are
sent too often, the media will start to ignore them.
- You want to reach a small or targeted audience.
- You are looking for a way express your own opinion. Emphasize facts, not
opinions unless as quotes from someone else’s mouth. Consider writing an Op-Ed
piece if you want to argue a specific viewpoint.
- You are expecting a windfall of publicity. Time of day (if a newscast), the
page the article appears on (if a newspaper), and length of story all affect
whether or not the audience sees the article or hears the story, and how
effective it is
Timing is Everything
releases should be used throughout the planning process – as long as there is
substantial new news to report. But remember the caution to use press releases