Has something so exciting ever happened at your association or with a member that you just wanted to shout about it from the top of a mountain? Depending on your location I suppose you could do that…or, you could write and distribute a press release.
You can never truly predict how successful you’ll be when distributing a press release, but getting picked up by a media outlet means free publicity, so it’s always worth a try! Getting free awareness and SEO help should never be dismissed. Oh, and did we mention the FREE part?!
It may sound intimidating, but practice makes perfect. We’ve broken down the concept, parts and tools of a typical press release so you can start to develop your own strategy.
Press releases are meant be…
Newsworthy. Whatever you’re writing about should be interesting not just to you, but also to 1) the media outlet or journalist you’re approaching, so they’re enticed to write about it and 2) the audience you’re trying to reach, so the journalist has reason to write about it, and so your audience is then encouraged to engage with you when they read it.
Timely. Be sure to strategically time the distribution of your press release. Always distribute when the news is most relevant. That could be right when you announce a keynote speaker to event attendees or when you’ve learned that your organization has won an award…whatever the case may be, just remember that news from last week is old news.
Succinct. You are not – I repeat, are NOT – selling anything in your press releases!! This cannot be stressed enough – approach writing it as if you were writing a news article, because you are. Releases must read impartial and factual, without exaggeration or fluff. In many cases, a news outlet will take your release and publish it verbatim, so keep that in mind as well!
Traditionally, press releases follow a standard formatting that includes (1) notice that it is “FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE,” (2) a media contact and their information, (3) an attention-grabbing headline, (4) a subtitle, (5) and the date and location listed in your (6) leading paragraph.
The body of your press release should include about 3-4 paragraphs, with the leading paragraph getting straight to the five W’s: who, what, when, where and why. The when and where are taken care of at the beginning – then, try to sum up the who, what and why into a sentence or two.
Supporting paragraphs will give more information and background on the subject. Be sure to include at least one quote! Using a quote (or two) wisely can help you expand on the information you’re giving in the release, while deviating from the impartial and factual voice and letting your organization’s personality show through. Work with the key stakeholders within your organization to develop strategic quotes.
Finally, always end with what’s called a boilerplate. A boilerplate is a paragraph about your organization, and any other organizations or individuals that are a main focus of your press release. These are included so that the journalist or reader can get a little backstory on your organization, without you having to waste copy within the release to go over it.
This is our standard boilerplate:
There are three main avenues for distributing your press release…
Wire Service. A wire service will distribute your press release quickly and easily on a mass scale, but for a cost. Many wire services also allow you to track reach and placement. This avenue is best used for big news that you want to get in front of as many eyes as possible. Typically, wires offer national, regional, state-wide and industry specific distributions. Difficulty level: pretty easy, once you pick one.
Media Distribution List. If you have the time and energy, developing a strategic media contact list can help ensure your press releases see the light of day. It takes a lot of time and a lot of research, but once you’ve identified the journalists you want to reach, you can work on developing a more personal relationship with each one. This will help to strengthen your reputation with the journalist, and make it easier to control how your news is delivered. Difficulty level: It’s time consuming, but quite valuable!
Your Own Resources. Dedicate a section of your website to just news and press releases. Promote those press releases on social media and let the content drive itself! Work with key partners to see if they would be willing to promote on your behalf as well. Difficulty level: so easy, but your reach is more limited.
Now that you understand the process of writing and distributing a press release…what should you write about first? We’ve brainstormed a few topics that could prove to be newsworthy and timely!
Need more inspiration? Visit the WebLink newsroom to see some of our most recent press releases!