When done right, an effective press release can be a great way to send your news announcement to the media—newspapers, magazines, TV, radio, bloggers—which can generate media coverage. A press release may be released in conjunction with a call or press conference, or it could be the sole source of information you send to a reporter or editorial writer.
This post provides an overview of the key elements of a press release, as well as tips for writing a compelling and useful press release.
8 Key Elements of a Press Release
Date: Including the date that the press release is being sent to the media or is allowable for public consumption is important. Sometimes people will “embargo” information or state that it cannot be released until a future time. However, embargoes should be used sparingly and only with reporters and editors who you trust.
Media Contact: This is the person—typically the candidate or elected official’s press secretary or communications director—who the reporter or editor can contact for more information. It’s important to include that person’s phone number for both their office and cell phone, email address, and, if possible, a back up contact. Of note, the contact person should be well versed in the details and issues related to the press release.
Title: Usually, the press release’s title is two lines. The top line is the main announcement and the second line is a supporting phrase that is meant to build interest.
Introduction: The first paragraph should start with the city and state, also known as the dateline. It’s always placed at the beginning of a press release and represents the geographic identifier of the piece. In other words, the dateline tells the journalist where the story originated.
This first or “‘lead” paragraph should also include the most pertinent information and details of the announcement.
Quote: A press release usually includes at least one quote from the candidate, elected official, endorser, or the issue expert. The quote should support a point of view that is being conveyed while also being unique enough to add to the larger context. It’s also important to use natural language with the quote to ensure it doesn’t sound manufactured or artificial.
Details: Use bullet points to separate the important details. This makes it easy for journalists and editors to identify the main points quickly. Furthermore, utilize statistics and cite sources to increase your credibility.
Call to Action: Be sure to include your website and links to your social media pages and encourage the media to visit these to get more information. Alert the media to supplementary materials that should be on your website.
Conclusion: Use “###” or “—30—” to signal the end of the document. This symbol should appear at the bottom of every press release.
4 Tips for Writing a Press Release
1. Be concise and clear: You should aim to convey all of the relevant facts in as little space as possible to keep the attention of your reader. Press releases should be thorough, but no more than two pages. You should also use easy-to-read fonts, like 12-point Times New Roman or 11-point Arial.
2. Include the most important material first: If your press release doesn’t hook the reporter or editor with the headline or first paragraph, then it’s likely that it’ll end up in the recycling bin. Journalists receive many (sometimes hundreds) of press releases daily, so it’s important to make it easy for them to know what you’re trying to convey.
3. Make sure your story is timely, interesting, unexpected, or even a little controversial: It’s important to know the audience of the particular medium that you are pitching to. The editor of a local publication will be most interested in news that affects their audience, so make sure you highlight that connection. It’s also important to keep in mind that editors are in the business of providing content that they think their audience will watch, read, or listen to because it’s useful or enjoyable to them. The editor’s goal is not to help you advance your policies or your campaign.
4. Proofread and fact-check: It’s not uncommon for the text in a press release to be cut and pasted directly into a website or newspaper. Because of this, it’s critical that you take the time to ensure that the tone, grammar, word choice, and explanations are accurate and that your campaign or office gives off a professional image. Furthermore, we recommend having a fresh pair of eyes read the release after you’ve reviewed it. In the age of social media, a misstatement or typo could go viral.
Reflections & Preparation
- Review a press release you’ve previously published to see if there are ways that it could be improved.
- Brainstorm 2-3 priorities you would like to highlight and consider what would make them interesting or timely to share with the press.
- Explore how to set yourself up for success as an elected leader.
- LEE Member Resource Library (check out the Communications folder in the Strategy Toolkit)
- LEE’s Preparing a Press Release
- Three Tips for Successful Media Interviews
- Communicating in Politically-Charged Times
- Best Practices: Utilizing Social Media to Increase Your Impact and Further Your Theory of Change
- Social Media Best Practices By Digital Platform
- 10 Best Practices to Make Sure You’re Getting the Most Out of Your Social Media