Whether you’re organising a demonstration against a new out-of-town supermarket, persuading your MP to back a strong climate change law or launching a campaign to save a local wildlife area, the right publicity can be the key to campaign success. A good press release is one of the most effective ways of getting your issue covered in the media. Communications and Media Assistant Phillip Byrne gives you top tips on how to write the perfect release
What is a press release?
A press release is a standardised way of communicating with journalists. If written well it will tell them what the story is at a glance – making their job easier and making it more likely they will cover your issue. Journalists get hundreds of press releases every day so you need to make sure yours stands out from the crowd.
Controversy or scandal
is always of interest. If you are holding a public meeting think about getting people along who are completely opposed to each other (even if you think one of them is talking rubbish) to create a debate and media interest.
What should your press release be about?
The most important thing about a press release is its content. What you are writing about has to be of interest to the journalist or they won’t cover it. First and foremost it has to be newsworthy. News has to be new . There is no point publicising an event or activity that happened a few weeks ago – it’s been and gone. You need to talk about what’s happening now or what’s about to happen. This might be the launch of a new campaign, it might be new information, it might be an event or activity or someone new wading into a debate.
Quirky, unusual or unexpected events and activities are also newsworthy. This could be a humorous photo opportunity or stunt. Cornwall Friends of the Earth carved out their very own Halloween pumpkins as part of a GM food stunt – clever and effective. Many people complain that all papers ever cover these days is celebrity. If you can’t beat them, join them! This doesn’t have to mean getting Leonardo DiCaprio on board – you could ask a local celebrity such as the Mayor or MP to support the campaign. Finally, your story has to have some relevance for the people who are going to be reading or hearing about it. For the local media this means ﬁnding a local angle . For example, if the Government wants to relax planning laws you could focus on how the expected supermarket invasion could affect shops in your local community.
stories are very popular, especially in the local media. People are more interested in reading about how the Smith family around the corner has been affected by emissions from the nearby incinerator than they are about a bunch of combustion statistics.
How to… Pull-out section Issue 64 April/May 2007
How should your press release look?
Here’s a handy template for writing a press release – stick to these guidelines and you won’t go wrong. You can also download a press release template from http://community.foe.co.uk/publicity ]
For immediate release: [date]
(If you want the media to use the story as soon as they receive it) or
Embargoed for: [time/date]
(This is a good way of giving journalists time to prepare and to ensure they don’t use it until a speciﬁed time)
(Start with a snappy headline, but not too clever)
Photo opportunity: (What it is, where it is, when it is and contact details) Paragraph 1: Summarise the story - who, what, where, when and why. All key information needs to be in this paragraph Paragraph 2: Put in more details to ﬂesh out the story you have outlined in the ﬁrst paragraph Paragraph 3: “Quotes from you or someone relevant to the story.” Don’t try to cram too many points into one quote – each quote should make one point Paragraph 4: Extra relevant information Ends
Notes for Editors • Provide background information in case they run a longer story • Outline what you have to offer: pictures,...