A good press release can tremendously help you reach new supporters and keep the community informed of newsworthy happenings. Some good examples of when to use a press release (also known as a news release) include, announcing your upcoming fundraiser, sharing the excitement of receiving a grant, or informing of a change in your charity’s leadership.
Writing a good press release takes a lot of practice, but you can do it. With the information I’m providing you and a little patience and determination on your part, I know you can do it. Remember though, your press release might not make the cut. When that happens, and it will, don’t quit trying. Try harder. Here are some tips for writing a great press release.
What’s the right format?
The correct page format of a press release is almost as important as what is said in the press release. Media reps won’t waste time trying to figure out your custom format, so keep it simple and universal.
Top left corner:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
If you don’t want the press release public for a few days, you can use this instead:
HOLD FOR RELEASE UNTIL (date)
Next, you want your one sentence headline in bold. Don’t use all capitalization, but capitalize each word. Exclamation marks (!) are not wise, as they tend to scream
Advertisement to the media. Your headline should quickly describe what the press release is about; be specific, but as brief as humanly possible.
Local Support Our Troops Non–Profit Holds 3rd Annual Benefit Concert At Veteran Park
Your first paragraph should state who, what, when, where and why; a summary of the event/news you are sharing. You need to capture your audience quickly, so hit ‘em hard. Lead with City, State/Country – Month Day, Year –
Abington, MA – August 7, 2010 – Example Organization announced the location and details of its 3rd Annual Benefit Concert, to be held at Veteran Park on September 28, 2010 at 7PM. Tickets are available for purchase at This Location and That Location for $15 until September 27, 2010. Tickets will also be sold at the gate starting 2 hours before the concert for $20.
Your second paragraph and additional paragraphs would then contain further important information pertaining the event/news that you are sharing. For example, you might wish to include more ticket purchasing information, quotes, factual statements about the program impacted by the 3rd Annual Benefit Concert, and a description of what type of music and other activities attending guests may expect. Your final paragraph should contain a quick recap of the summary you provided in the first paragraph.
Remember, a press release is not an advertisement. It is a brief factual representation of the event/news that media reps can use.
Additional information that’s not vitally important to the event/news is next. You may include additional information such as contact information, the mission statement of your organization, the event/news website address, and acknowledgments to other businesses/organizations/officials involved with the event/news. Each piece of information should be given its own paragraph with the title in bold.
Name of person
phone number (include area code)
Example Organization Mission:
Example Organization is dedicated to supporting active duty U.S. military members by providing them with live professional entertainment. The entertainment is brought to the troops through six worldwide active duty U.S. military installation tours every year.
3rd Annual Benefit Concert Website:
At the bottom of the press release include ### (three pound signs) centered. This tells the media that the press release has ended.
All together now:
What Font Should I Use?
Font choice is more or less up to you. There are a few things to keep in mind.
- Your press release should be easily legible by anyone (even after faxing)
- A font with similar/identical appearance 1 (number one), I (capital i) and l (lowercase L) will lead to confusion
- If sending an electronic press release, some fonts are not installed on every computer
With that being said, I generally choose Verdana 13pt for the title, Verdana 11pt for
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, the paragraphs and
###, and Verdana 10pt for any additional information.
How Long Should It Be?
It is recommended by many marketing and PR professionals that your press release should be as informative and brief as humanly possible, without exceeding 500 words.
Personally, I don’t count the words; I set a limit of 3/4 of a page. 3/4 of a page should be plenty of space for your press release. Very rarely do I need to go beyond that.
What Should I Say?
Although I provided a few examples above, I understand the challenges that writing a press release can bring. Your press release is most likely different than the example I used above, and it’s probably different than any press release I’ve written. Well, hopefully it is anyway. So, for this question I’ll focus on a few fundamental tips.
- Being energetic can easily head toward perceived advertising if you’re not careful, so remove the fluff and stick to the facts.
- Misspellings and poor grammar are unprofessional and will get you nowhere. Always spell check the press release before asking anyone else to proofread it and, given the sentence, use the correct spelling for words like their, there, and they’re.
- Choose your words carefully. What you say in a press release is taken as fact – don’t confuse facts by misquoting someone or misstating statistics.
- Proofread, then have someone else proofread, then have another person proofread BEFORE sending the press release to media reps.
- Most importantly (in my opinion), take your time and do a good job. You only get one chance with this event/news to win over the media.
How Should I Say It?
When writing a press release, always use third person reporting. For instance, you might say,
According to Mr. Smith, Example Organization has positively impacted the lives of more than 3,000 active duty military members through Example Program in the past 6 months.
You wouldn’t want to say,
My organization, Example Organization, has positively impacted the lives of more than 3,000 active duty military members through Example Program in the past 6 months.
It’s also a good idea to state the fact then move on. Don’t continue talking about the same fact beyond what’s necessary. Too much detail is wasted space in the press release and wasted time for the media rep. They want the facts as quickly and painlessly as possible. The nitty–gritty details can come later, if they decide to take the story.
Who Should I Send It To?
Depending on your press release, you might want to send it to an exclusive media list or you might want it sent to every media rep in the country. For instance, for a benefit concert, I would send it to local newspapers, television news stations, and radio stations. If you truly think the entire nation should know about something unique that your organization is doing or some news that you have exclusive information about, then you could add the national television news stations and newspapers to your list.
Building your lists is not an easy or quick task. My wife and I spent several weeks compiling a media list for the local area while working with SKIP. That list was outdated a year later and we had to rebuild it, one name and email address at a time.
The best advice I can offer is to build your list with real people, not general email addresses like firstname.lastname@example.org and to keep that list current by constantly updating it. Make a connection with a reporter in your area and use that connection to make two other connections to add to your media list, then use each of those connections to add two other connections, etc. Your list will grow in time and you’ll have some solid media connections to boot.
Don’t forget to put the press release (or a version of it) on your website so everyone can see what’s going on with the organization.
How Should I Send It To Them?
It was once recommended that you send press releases via fax to each media office. In today’s world of technology however, it’s best to send them through email. Faxing press releases is outdated and not as effective.
Your email should include a PDF attachment of the press release. The body of your email should be a quick personalized overview of why you’re contacting them, what you hope they can do for you, and a summary of the press release that’s attached. The title of your email should include part of the headline of your press release; for example (using the headline from above): Benefit Concert At Veteran Park