Press releases – some tips
The best way to communicate with journalists is by sending a press release. The first paragraph is the most important part and where you need to grab the journalist’s attention so it’s best to cut to the chase from the start!
Make sure the first paragraph includes all the essential details – the WHO, WHAT, WHERE, and if possible the WHEN, HOW and WHY of the story.
Editors may use the exact words of the press release and if space is tight will cut it from the bottom, so the key information must be prominent early on.
Other things to remember:
- Keep the release simple, clearly worded and to the point – one to two pages maximum.
- Do emphasize the local angle – mention the name of your local or regional area in the release and highlight any relevant issues you think will be of interest to your local or regional audience.
- Don’t use acronyms without first spelling them out and NEVER use jargon.
- Do include a quote from your main spokesperson. This will help bring the facts in your press release to life.
- Try to come up with a snappy headline, but don’t worry if you can’t manage this as most newspapers will come up with their own headlines.
- If you need to add more detailed information, such as a summary address or an event timetable, this can be added after the main text under the heading ‘Notes to Editor’.
- Always include a contact name and telephone number for both daytime and evening if possible as some journalists may call out of hours.
Things to check before you send out the press release:
- Copy and paste the full release into the body of the email.
- Do NOT send as a WORD document. Journalists get sent hundreds of emails every day and often don’t open attachments.
- Make sure the name of your organization and the headline of the press release is featured in the email subject line: News release: Local disability group launches sit-in protest at Cardigan railway station.
- Do not send photos in the first instance as these can clog up journalists’ inboxes. The best thing is to try to get a photographer or broadcaster to come along to cover your event / campaign. Make sure you include key details for photographers such as date, time and venue. If you have already arranged for photos to be taken, then just mention in the release or email that photos are / will be available. For most regional and local newspapers, there is a general newsdesk email address so it’s best to send your release there in the first instance. For TV and radio, send your release to the Forward Planning general email address.
- Make sure you send the press release in good time. Check in advance which day your local newspaper goes to press.
- It’s best to send at least a week before your event if possible to allow plenty of time for making arrangements. For broadcasters, a week in advance is also best.
- If you have not heard anything a few days after sending the email, follow up with a phone call. It’s best to approach the news desk first but you may be put through to a reporter or producer that leads on disability-related issues or who covers a particular local area.