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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.
 
 

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 groupís 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 an organizationís 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.
  • Donít 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.
 
 

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. To make the list, find a friendly local organization or local government agency for its 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 Baconís directories or News Media Yellow Book.

2. Identify a Newsworthy Event

Such examples include the initial formation of a group or coalition, when an important new organization or public official supports the cause, or when a major public event is being organized such as a rally or town meeting.

3. Donít Bury the Lead!

Summarize whatís most importantócalled the leadóin 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 to conduct an interview.
  • Put a brief heading on the top of the page; repeat the heading in shortened form on top of succeeding pages.
  • Briefly and clearly state the organizationís name and purpose at the end of the release.

5. A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

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 releaseóeither 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

Donít sit back and wait to see if the story appears. Follow up with a telephone call whether the release was mailed, emailed or faxed.

 
Updated
Wednesday 6/05/02 2:00.00
 
   
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A statement or story an organization prepares and distributes to the news media.
 
 
  • 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 and your group.
  • 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 elseís 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.  
 
 
  Press releases should be used throughout the planning process Ė as long as there is substantial new news to report. But remember the caution to use press releases judiciously.