This week’s class at Emerson was about press releases. These are a great tool for getting news about your non-profit out there, whether its a new advocacy campaign, a recent accomplishment, or a change in leadership. Never used one in your marketing? Never fear! Here are the take-away tips for getting started:
- Free advertising!…Kind of. Unlike public relations where you attempt to control the public’s perception, you give up some control with a press release. Since this is not an ad where you would pay for it to appear exactly as you want, once you send it out to the media without any money exchanged they can take what they want of it and add their spin… positive or negative.
- Anticipate questions. Of course you should answer the who, what, where, when, why, and how. But once you’re done writing, read over the press release and think about what follow-up questions a journalist might ask you after they read it. Then add in the answers!
- Format is important. Using the layout of a press release makes it recognizable and readable. The top should have “For Immediate Release,” with your name and all contact information. Directly below should be a clear headline (which should be in all caps) and below that you can put a subtitle (not in caps). Headlines must be in the present tense and concisely summarize the story. The body of the release would ideally be one page long, but it can be two. It should always end with one of the three options for signifying the end of a press release: -30-, ###, or -end-. The ### is most popular and my personal favorite. Of you are going on to a second page, write -more- or (more) at the bottom of the first page.
- Format is really important. There’s so much on this I have to write about the body of the text in its own section. Before the first sentence, write the city and the date (of release, not of the event/news). Your first line will look like: “BOSTON (October 8, 2010) — Blogger Sarah Prager will publish her best post to date at http://www.sarahprager.com today.” The first paragraph goes on to give all the most important basic information. Imagine this is the only paragraph that will be read (because it might). Your very last paragraph is called a boiler plate. This paragraph gives all of the main information about your organization like the year it was founded, where its based, its size and, most importantly, its mission. You can put this at the end of every press release.
- Write for a 5th grade level. Keep your language simple. Use active voice and present tense whenever possible. Always remember your audience. Save space by using less words and shorter words.