Writing an Effective Press Release

This Tuesday, July 14th, Account Manager Natalie Townsend and Senior Account Executive Emily Weinberg, from Shift Communications gave an enlightening presentation on how to craft an effective and informative press release.

What is a Press Release? 

For nonprofit organizations press release content may cover campaign launches, fundraising initiatives, new board members, or a variety of other announcements. Before crafting a release, consider if the announcement truly merits press. Smaller news or events can be just as effectively broadcast in a blog post, newsletter, or on social media. To understand content that may warrant a release, research what competitors or those in your sphere are reporting. However, do not copy another nonprofit or feel the need to issue comparable announcements. The “me too” approach can be ineffective and unprofessional. Strive to highlight what is different about your organization.

Writing a Release:  The Six Essential Components

Headline

  • Explains what the news event is in a concise and clear way
  • Should be short enough to fit in a 140 character tweet
  • Is written last when you have a greater understanding of what the release conveys

Subhead

  • Describes why the news is important to your audience
  • It is useful to think about the subhead as playing the supporting actress role. It promotes the overlying message of the headline and clarifies the things left unsaid.

The Lede

  • The news event, why it matters and all the important context and detail that makes your press release interesting to your audience
  • This is the one element you should make sure is as close to perfect as possible
  • Chronologically it should go from most important to least important information about the event
  •  It is important to include how your organization is playing a new and innovative role and what you will do moving forward to advance this role
  • Alluding to future plans make news items more enticing to reports and increasing the chance of having your press release published

 Data:

  •  Quantitative information allows you to show and support the greater industry trends as well as allow your organization’s ego to shine through and give greater context to your news event
  • You can use data to position your organization as a thought leader as well as fellow nonprofit in your industry’s space
  • Data demonstrates that you have something to add into the industry conversation
  • You don’t have to own the data yourself, but it is always important to give credit where it is due

Quotes:

  • Serve to support the data and context as well as provide input from reputable outside parties
  • Should demonstrate your excitement about your news event as well as give flair and excitement to the press release language
  • Be mindful of the individuals you choose to quote, and consider how attractive it might appear to a reporter
  • The more prominent an individual is the more likely reporters will want to include them in their stories

Boilerplate:

  • This short section provides the basics of what your organization does
  • Simpler is always better for boilerplates
  • Someone who is not familiar with your mission should not have to read it more than once to understand the basics of your organization

DO:

  • Use honest, clear, and simple language
  • Short sentences and strong verbs will ensure that your audience understands and reads the entirety of your press release

DO NOT: 

  •  Do not egotistically use superlatives that describe your organization as “the best”, “the first”, or “the leader.”
  •  Avoid bashing, or degrading the competition. Position yourself as an advocate of your industry

What To Do With a Completed Press Release:

There are two approaches you can take when you have finished your press release; sharing under embargo or sharing the day the news breaks

Sharing under embargo:

  • A promise between you and a reporter
  • The press agrees not to go public until an agreed upon date
  • Used when an announcement is scheduled to be made at a certain time
  • This approach helps to develop relationships with reporters and your organization but can be risky

Sharing the day of:

  • When a release goes public as soon as it is reported
  • Used when there are no restrictions on breaking news

Check out the Presentation Slides here.