A press release is an essential tool to get the word out to as wide an audience as possible on your upcoming event or activity, to effectively highlight your message connected to a significant national, state, or local issue, or to get the word out on other newsworthy items. When targeted to the right people, an effective press release provides an essential service to journalists, supporters, and friends who can use their own personal networks to distribute the release to people they know will be interested. A good release details news in a way that is clear, easily digestible for the reader, and concise. A good release can generate numerous mentions for you among bloggers, established print reporters, and other sources.
Journalists – from newspaper reporters and bloggers to radio hosts and TV producers – will read a good release and use it as the foundation for a basic story or as a baseline source of information to follow up with you to write a bigger story. Radio and TV journalists will use a press release as starting point in putting a segment together. (If you are selected for such a segment, please remember to take a look at Generation Opportunity’s other guides on being an effective radio call-in or in-studio radio guest or television interview.)
On the digital front, bloggers – who may have significant audiences online – can re-post your release and contact you to ask questions. Anyone who has good connections on social networking sites will use your release and post it which can get multiple mentions. When you put all this together, a press release that is well-done can have real impact because you are providing information of value to those who report the news.
As always, tell us about your success. E-mail us at email@example.com and tell us how you are doing getting your press releases placed and what issues you are talking about!
1. Choose one central item to promote in your press release.
If you have other events or news items, which are notable and distinct on their own, they should be included in separate releases. Remember, you want the reader to get the message clearly and quickly because some journalists receive numerous press releases in a single day.
2. Set up your release in the proper format.
Press releases have a common layout scheme that journalists are accustomed to as a matter of practice and professional standard. In the upper left hand of the release, place the word “CONTACT” in all caps and below it put your name, your phone number, email, and other relevant contact information. In the upper right hand of the release, put “FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE” and the date of issue below that. On the center of the page, under both the contact and the date, place the headline. After that, begin the first paragraph. For an example of this format, click the “News link” on the navigation bar above and feel free to take a look at any of Generation Opportunity’s press releases.
3. Write a short, newsy primary headline that quickly conveys your topic.
In a press release, you are conveying something that is worthy of news – therefore it should read like news to the eyes of a reporter, news editor, producer, or blogger. Come up with a headline that is catchy and sounds like something you might read in bold type on the front page or inside page of a newspaper. In this sense, you grab the attention of the recipient, encouraging them to read more. More importantly, make sure that if the headline is the only thing someone reads, it still provides the key idea and details contained in the release. A headline, generally speaking, should be no longer than a sentence or two.
4. If you need to, write a sub-headline.
Some press releases require this and some don’t. Here’s a simple way to decide whether you need to or not –ask yourself if your primary headline allows you to convey all the information you need to convey. If not, a sub-headline gives you a little more room to put any critical information. A sub-headline can be two or three sentences but do not get carried away with more than that – it is not a paragraph, it is merely an additional headline to finish the idea.
5. Write your opening paragraph.
Your first paragraph contains your “hook” and should be catchy enough that people want to keep reading. It should also describe what the rest of the release will be about and provide the basics about your central point. It can contain some of the words that you used in your headline, but it should not read like a repeat of the headline. Think of a radio news broadcast you have heard. First, you hear the headline “Man Bites Dog” and then you hear the story “A Man in Anytown Bit a Dog Today, marking the first time a dog has been bit since 1820.” This is a repeat of the headline, but it fleshes it out and gives context for why the news is significant. Your first paragraph should read much the same way.
6. Insert the all-important quote.
After you have written one or two succinct opening paragraphs, it’s time for your quote. The quote is an effective tool for several reasons. First, if someone re-posts your release, your quote will be included for readers to see and understand why you personally, or a spokesperson, thought the news was important. Second, if someone is writing their own story based on your release, they may use the whole quote or pieces of the quote in their own story. Finally, the quote highlights the featured representative of your effort in the release – making it clear to journalists who the person to interview would be in the event they want to request an interview. Your quote can be as short as two sentences or as long as a multi-sentence paragraph, depending on the situation. Generally speaking, it is best to have one quote and leave it at that as additional quotes can be confusing. Another rule of thumb: avoid the temptation to include multiple quotes from multiple people. It is best to choose one person to focus the attention of your reader if at all possible.
7. Write the remainder of the release.
This is where you put everything else. Details, statistics, and other information that is important to the story. This is the part of the release than can run long, so keep an eye on your word count.
8. Optional: Include a closing “About” paragraph.
In this paragraph you can include brief language that tells people about you, your organization or group, what you do, what your goals are, and how to do what you do. It’s important to keep this short, as this is still included in your overall word count. But you also want to be concise in order to give readers a good quick sense of what you or your organization are about.
9. Go back and edit your release and have someone else look over it too.
A second set of eyes can ensure what you have written makes sense and that there are no grammatical errors. It sometimes helps to read your release aloud as well. Remember your audience is professional journalists, producers, and bloggers who take their work seriously. The accuracy of your release sends a message about how serious you are about your professional standard and your level of respect for their profession.
10. Send your press release.
Check with each individual publication for its preferred method of receiving press releases. You can check their website or give them a call and ask. Some prefer e-mail; some wants faxes; others still use standard mail. Send your press release to your family, friends, and supporters. Ask them to send your release around to their friends as well as post it on their social networks. well done and look for more opportunities to spread your message!
11. Be available to receive calls, emails, texts, and other messages once you have sent.
If you are going to send a release out, understand that if it is successful, you will hear back from people in many different ways. This is why the contact information on your release needs to be accurate and why you need to keep checking your messages and emails. Be prepared to adjust your schedule in order to answer questions and to make yourself available for interviews. The better your release, the busier you will be after it goes out. Contact Generation Opportunity and tell us how you are doing too.
12. Do it again and again!
Getting the word out is not a one-time deal. The more people know that they can count on you for interesting and reliable information, the better pickup you will get on your releases.
13. Last—but perhaps most important—remember that anything you write that is either published or posted lasts forever.
Whether it is on the Internet through an electronic search engine or hard-copy archives, people will have access to what you write. So be responsible in what you write, check the accuracy of your information, and avoid making accusations or statements that are baseless or inaccurate.