How to Write an Effective Press Release

Press Releases

1. A press release is brief and highlights an important event, decision, or piece of information. The first paragraph of a press release should include who, what, when, where, why and sometimes how. Make verbs active and the subject concrete, for example. Cover the most important facts first and follow with details.

2. Give your press release a catchy title, e.g., "Nonprofit hails ban on assault weapons." Write the heading as if it were the headline you’d like to read in the paper. Write a first sentence that makes it tough to stop reading.

3. Be sure to include a contact name and telephone number on the top right corner. List a number that will be answered by a live person – even if that includes cell, home and work numbers.

4. Don’t forget to include the date of your release on the upper left corner of your release. Write "FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Month day, year."

5. Include a quote from your spokesperson. Be sure to use his/her title and the full name of the organization. Sentences in quotes should be short and to the point. It is a good idea to alert your spokesperson about the release and their quote so they are not caught off guard.

6. Write in the third person. Using the first person will make your release more like promotional material than news.

7. Follow AP Style. The AP Stylebook is a guide to usage, spelling and punctuation, and a reference for terms and topics commonly encountered in journalism. Some examples of AP style: Always spell out "percent;" for a specific date, abbreviate the month, but spell out when using alone or with a year alone. Never abbreviate March, April, May, June or July.

8. At the bottom of page one write "more" if necessary, otherwise write "end" or use the symbol "###"centered below the text.

9. Limit your release to one or two page. Reporters hate getting long faxes/e-mails. If you need to include more information and facts, send your release by mail.

10. If a major event warrants an immediate and more lengthy response from your organization than a press release, write a one-page statement from your leadership. Use the title: "Statement by (name), Director of (the nonprofit)."

11. Proof everything at least twice. If your press release looks disorganized and is badly written, the nonprofit’s image will suffer. Conversely, if the release is well written, the paper may print it verbatim.

12. Never editorialize in press releases. For example, do not write that a speaker is gifted.

13. Keep opinions and judgments within the quotes.

14. After sending your release, make follow-up calls to specific reporters, ensuring they received it.