Press Release Tips

Thanks to Soumya, Sachin, Manan, Sophia, Rekha, Farah, Sapna, Praveen and Sunila from the desilit newsgroups (classic, bayarea and chicago)(apologies if I missed anyone)

Most Important Ground Rule: The Ws - always include who, what, where, when, and why....and how

1. Has a nice link to a Seattle newspaper about publicity for Non-Profits and a good list of links

2. Free press release distribution service - worth looking into..may have a good network of journalists - kind of like a first step of filtering press releases...

3. A little outdated -

4. Has a breakdown of a typical press release format -
Clip: A good press release follows what is known as an inverted triangle. This means that the press release needs to begin with the most important information. The next paragraph should contain slightly less important information and so on. Detailed data should be in the middle and below, to be used as background and filler.

5. Has some good information on writing a TV pitch letter

Nice tip: Make sure the first 10 words of your release are effective, as they are the most important.

7. - basic tips

8. Some tips from a reporter of a major newspaper:
-  don't overwrite the release or overstate the news. "lauching a major campaign or initiative" is usually never the case. for non-profits the news is simple: a) outreach b) raising money c) awareness.   pick which one your agency is doing and get to the how quickly. if it's a new organizaiton that's being formed, tell why.
-  send the release to exactly the right person. reporters cover specific areas.  call around to make sure it's the right person. or the right editor, they're usually more into assigning stories. - and make sure the paper you cover has an interest in the topic. for isntance, my paper wouldn't give a damn unless it had to do with portland or oregonians in general. most major metros are the same (nyt, wash post, is different)
-  don't blanket everyone -- i can't tell you how many releases i throw away every day, especially when lots of people get them.  

- a good reporter will NEVER run quotes from a press release or just write what you have verbatum. They'll call you, so make sure contact information is there for all hours of the day and be ready to scramble for more information if a reporter calls on deadline -- sometimes they only have a few minutes and it's the different between a crappy story and a good story.

9. For journalists - with examples of press releases

10.  If you are writing for an international non-profit, do a web search for such organizations and check out their news sections for press releases. Read these. It always helps to gauge tone and content if you look it up in an industry-specific way e.g. look up leo burnett if writing for an advertising company etc. Armed with the subject matter, it also helps tremendously to talk to the people involved for a 5-10min interview. Have your questions ready. You will not only gain insights but also, hopefully, get a few quotable quotes. I would recommend doing this after you have written a first draft so that you can phrase your questions pertinently and gather all the information you need to write an interesting and cohesive release.

11. From a writer for a newspaper:
We like press releases to include the who, what, where, when, why and how right up front, and we like it when they are written in the style of a news story.  One thing I hate when I get a press release for an event is the writer gushing about how great and wonderful the event is and using all sorts of colorful adjectives. If you will be sending press releases to newspapers, don't put your own voice in there and don't gush!!! : )

12. From another 'insider'
-Don't capitalize everything!  Things in all caps are very hard to read, and it just shows a lack in sophistication---it's something a teenager would do in an e-mail.  Even cap. certain paragraphs is still a bit annoying to read

-Keep it concise.  Try not to go over one page.

-As mentioned in the previous post, state the who's, etc. up front.  The reader doesn't want to wait until he/she gets to the middle of the page to figure out what is going on.

-The previous post also mentioned language.  I agree.  I have to say that many of the press releases I read sounded like massive ego-tripping, whether it was an individual or an entire organization. Self-promotion does not need to sound haughty.