Writing a Press Release

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Guidelines for Writing a Press Release

The information below was excerpted from a website focusing on issues in Canada.  Click here to view the content as it is presented on their website.

Compiling a Press List

This list should include all media available in the area and a contact person for each. The media list should include local newspapers, television and radio stations, and appropriate newsletters.

Sources. Use the Internet, telephone yellow pages, your own knowledge of the community, and press lists of other organizations to put together your press list. Call each to ask to whom you should send the releases and to get the correct mailing address. It is important to develop personal contacts with sympathetic reporters (for example, those covering the elections or the issues you're raising). They will appreciate your keeping them posted and may be responsible for getting you coverage even when they cannot cover an event themselves. People in your organization may have personal contacts of their own among the press. Use these in addition to your basic mailing list.

Define your news. What do you want people to know? You can't make every point every time. The contacts you make should last a long time. You'll have other opportunities to make other points. For now, focus.

Select the appropriate media. Your press list should include a variety of departments and contact people. Different news is suited to different departments.

Preparing a Press Release

Form

    Logo, preferably letterhead, or heading.
    Date of issue.
    Release date ("immediate," or "AMs and PMs Tuesday, March 6").
    Contact name and office and home phone number (cell phone if available)
    Headline -- succinct and informative.
    Indent paragraphs five spaces.
    Double space.
    1 « inch margin.
    If a release runs more than one page:
        head each page with a shortened version of the headline;
        use the word "more" at the bottom of each page;
        Type --30-- at the bottom of the release. This is the media's code version of "The End."

Content: Who, What, Where, When, Why

The lead (first) paragraph must single out the answer to at least two of the five W's.

The second paragraph should answer all the others. It helps to have a quotable first paragraph. Pick your priorities carefully. Your lead should tell the reporter what he/she needs to know in order to convince him/her and the editor that the story should be covered. If they aren't hooked by the lead, they won't read your release. Releases can be long if you have a long story to tell. But follow the law of diminishing importance, so that the editor can cut from the tail up.

Always include the title or description of the person you are writing about (e.g. Mr. André Harvey, M.P. Parliamentary Secretary to the Hon. Susan Whelan, Minister for International Cooperation). Include the names of all note-worthy participants and, if for local press, include addresses of local residents.

Statements of opinion must be enclosed in quotation marks and attributed to a person ("In making the announcement, candidate X stated:"). Never editorialize in a news release.

Have a standard closing paragraph, stating succinctly the purpose of your organization.

Timing

The press release should be in the hands of the media approximately one week before you want it published.

Follow up with a phone call when the contact has had time to receive the release. Don't badger. Just ask if s/he received the release and if s/he needs any additional information.

 

Examples of Press Releases

Examples of press releases written by legislators.  These examples are included to provide you with a flavor of how public policy press releases are written.

 

Writing Press Releases - Additional internet resources

 

http://www.publicityinsider.com/release.asp

http://www.prlog.org/tips/1016-how-to-write-a-press-release.html

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