Get Your Story to the Media

Press Releases

Press Releases can relay your story to the media in a format that is quick and easy for them to use. Many smaller and local papers will extract information from well-written press releases with minimal editing. The Media will also make releases starting points for news or feature stories that are researched and written by their own reporters. Following are some guidelines that will help you.

  1. Learn the philosophy the newspaper uses, including the way stories are handled and presented to the reader.

  2. Know the deadlines of the daily and weekly papers. Submit stories on a timely basis.

  3. Research the topic before the release is written. Cover those questions that you might ask if you were a reporter (who, what, when, where, why and how).

  4. Identify the most important question of the story and answer it first. Add other details in descending order of importance, using the journalistic “inverted pyramid”: who, what, where, when, why-at the top; other important details next; and finally, any miscellaneous information.

  5. Write in short, concise sentences. This is the journalistic style. Keep the release simple. Avoid cluttering it with needless modifiers. Less is more.

  6. Avoid using big words or jargon of any kind. They do not communicate universally. Choose words that are used in everyday conversation.

  7. Press releases should be no more than two pages long. A single page is best. Always double space. This is a standard release format.

  8. Paragraphs should be no more than three or four lines long, if possible.

  9. Proofread the release carefully before it is sent.

  10. Make sure the release has a contact person, a phone number and email address where reporters may respond for additional information.

  11. Include a note to the editor about interesting people that could be utilized for photographs or interviews.

  12. If the story is really important, call ahead and tell the media the release is on the way. Then follow up with a call to see if additional information is needed. Follow up is a primary key to coverage!

  13. Try to localize national stories or tie local stories into national themes or events depending on the orientation of the targeted newspaper.

  14. Photographs included with a press release will increase the chances of the story being placed in a publication, particularly one that accepts photographs taken by people outside its own staff. A photograph can also convince editors to set the story apart from other articles, and can heighten the story’s impact on readers. Following are some tips on taking news-worthy photographs:
  • Make sure the subject is presented in an interesting way. Have a unique angle. Newspapers are not interested in ceremonial or posed pictures, such as handshakes, ground breakings, award presentations, passing checks, head tables and banquets. They would rather have pictures of the activities represented by the ceremonies.

  • The key word for photographs is action. If a picture does not present action, the newspaper often does not want it.

  • Does the picture create interest in the story? If the reader glances at a photo and says, “What is going on here?” and continues to read the copy to find out…then the photograph is newsworthy. The challenge is to make the photo reveal something about the subject portrayed.

  • A good photo tells the viewer more about the subject than simply appearance. It may show what a person’s occupation is by including “tools of the trade” or it may capture a particular expression that typifies the subject’s personality.

  • The photograph should appeal to an emotion. Photos with emotion rank first in any readership survey. Try to include the human element in any photograph.