A news or press release about a new program or event is a wonderful way to inform the local media and its audience about your latest efforts. Before you do this, however, you must know exactly what your intent is for your news release. Make sure you can answer the following questions:
- Who am I trying to reach?
- What is my message?
- What am I trying to accomplish by providing this message? (For example, are you trying to educate, motivate to take action, or persuade?)
- Why should the community care?
Once you've answered these questions, you are ready to begin crafting your release. Below is a brief list of steps to take. We have also provided you a press release template and press release sample to assist you in building your own news releases.
Basic Format of a News Release
- Print the release on your organization's letterhead.
- Type "For Immediate Release" and the date along the upper-left or upper-right margin.
- Directly across from “For Immediate Release,” include the label “Contact for Reporters” and place your contact person's name, phone number, and e-mail address below.
- Next, clearly describe the news event with a short, compelling headline. Center your headline on the page, and display it in bold font. Then, position a short sentence below the headline to summarize the release, and type it in italics or bold font, using a smaller font size.
- Begin the first paragraph with your dateline. The dateline identifies where the news originated. Following the dateline, give a one- or two-sentence summary for your press or news release. Include the date, time, and other time-critical information related to your activities. Concisely summarize the who, what, when, where, and why. For example:
Lansing, Michigan – Best-selling author Matt Schoenherr discusses marketing strategies at a two-day Culture of Success event beginning Wednesday, December 12, 2012, at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Tickets for the event sold out during the first week of sales.
- In the second paragraph, provide a quote from a leader or key person within your organization. The leader quoted should be closely connected with the event, and his role should be clearly identified.
- Note: Ensure all quotes add value to your story. Limit the number of quotes captured in your release to one or two people.
- Type -more- at the bottom of the first page if your release goes beyond one page. Limit your news or press release to no more than two pages; one page is preferred.
- The third paragraph may contain additional details on the event or program, as well as information on its history. This is also the place to include contact information for those who are interested in learning more.
- End your release with information about your company or organization. You can also do the same for a partner or sponsor; however, if you want to list more than two, avoid placing them here. Instead, include the list as a separate attachment. Your goal is to make the news release easy to read and digest for reporters and editors.
- Finally, typing ### or -30- at the very end indicates the end of the copy.
- Use short, explanatory sentences.
- Avoid the use of jargon. Explain any acronyms at their first appearance, such as, "Public service announcements (PSAs)."
- Avoid glorifying or demonizing within your release. Your goal is to report news without driving public opinion about it. Avoid judgment words like "very," "thrilling," "massive," and so on. Your descriptions should be as objective as the lens of a camera.
- Link the facts of the project or event to an important issue or need in your local community. Using real-life examples helps make the human connection. Highlight benefits of your work to the community.
- Review for clarity and flow, and ensure all words and names are spelled correctly.
(Thank you to the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) for their contribution to this idea.)
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