Press (News) Releases
What is a press release?
A press release is a written announcement of an event, performance or other newsworthy information that is released to the news media.
What is included in a press release?
A press release should include the “who, what, when, where, why and how” of the news you are sharing. Be sure to tell the most important information, but be careful not to provide too much detail or opinion-based statements. The most important details should be included at the beginning of the release. (If the piece needs to be shortened, the editors tend to trim from the end of the release.) Above all, keep a press release simple yet informative.
Always include contact information (telephone, email) in case the media want to follow-up on the release. (Make sure you’re available to be contacted)
Media outlets may run the release as is, or they may decide to create their own story from the information you send.
When should I send out a press release?
Press releases should be sent out when you have relevant, newsworthy information that you want to share with your community at large or the specific audience of the given newspaper/publication. Some examples include the dedication service for a new church building, a significant increase in the amount of families served by a church soup kitchen, a unique ministry (motorcycle chaplaincy program), a special service (4th of July, Easter), outreach event.
Keep in mind that the size of your community and local news media will dictate what they designate as news. What could be a front-page story in a small town may only make an activities listing in a larger city.
Be timely in sending out your release. Many publications work on tight deadlines and print in advance. Do not wait until the day before your event to send out the first notice
How do I send out a press release?
The most common methods for submitting a press release are mail, fax or email. The first time you send out a press release to a specific media outlet, check their Web site (try looking on the contact page) or call their office to find out how they prefer to receive press releases. If sending by email, include the press release in the body of the email in case the attached document cannot be opened.
Press Release Style Guide
Associated Press (AP) style is the widely (commonly) used writing guidelines for the media. The following are some commonly used rules.
* Use a.m. and p.m. following times.
* Spell out numbers less than 10 (one, five, nine), but use numerals for 10 and higher. Note that numbers over 10 should be spelled out when they begin a sentence (Example – Forty children were in attendance.)
* Do not abbreviate days of the week.
* Spell out state names when they stand alone, some states may be abbreviated for editorial space.
* Never abbreviate the following state names
* In a listing, do not us a comma before the last entry (Example – The menu will include steak, potatoes and salad.)
* Use Web site; not website or Web Site
Getting Along with the Media
If news editors had a favorite Bible verse it probably would be Romans 10:15 in the New International Version, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” And since the church is in the “good news” business, no one should have better relations with the media.
Newspapers, radio and television, all reach people, large numbers of people, both inside and outside the church. These commercial news outlets offer some of the greatest opportunities to communicate with the broadest possible audience. So a good working relationship with the media professionals in your community should be a top priority in your public relations and promotions efforts.
Pleasant and fruitful work with the media requires a basic understanding of the secular press perspective and a healthy attitude toward the media as a whole. It is also vital to understand the nature of news gathering and reporting.
First of all, the media are friends, not foes. Unfortunately in some sectors there is a mistrust of the media, and in the church it sometimes borders on paranoia. In most instances, the members of the press are neither hostile nor incompetent. They attempt to be objective and professional.
The American philosophy of the press views the media as guardians of the public interest. If so, you have a common concern, the good of the people in your church and its activities in terms of how it relates to their audience. It is important to see your programs from their viewpoint and to slant your releases to the unchurched.
The driving forces behind most media professionals reflect both the nature of news and the press viewpoint. These forces include:
The passion for objectivity – No one in or out of the media can remain infallibly objective; how ever, this is a strong motivation for most reporters. Feeding the media flowery, overly enthusiastic accounts will destroy both your credibility and their esteem.
The obsession with timeliness – News is only news if it’s new. Stories often die the same day they are born, and in some instances deadlines come almost hourly. You must be aware of and meet these deadlines without exception.
The quest for the unusual – News is the unusual, not the routine. It is the account of a previously unreported event or previously unreported information about the event. Always consider what angle will make your story different and therefore worthy of using.
An emphasis on the interesting – The media are concerned about people, not programs. Names make news. Happenings that arouse emotions such as sympathy, pleasure, delight, admiration, pity or surprise also make good stories.
The demand for the specific – Generalizations are not news, as a rule. Reporting “hundreds” attended a service is inconclusive. Saying “450 attended” is exact. The media need hard, accurate data – numbers, names, etc. News is fact— specific, correct facts.
Don’t ask an editor or news director to “give my church some publicity.” Publicity is not his business. News is! If you give him significant, interesting facts, he will give you coverage. You may call it publicity, but he will call it news. And remember, when or if your story is botched, be Christian! Suffer patiently and quietly. Conduct yourself so that whenever the editor sees you coming, he thinks “good news.”
City, State Zip
For Immediate Release:
Location, Date – Lead with your key news statement.
Follow with the main facts and then offer some support information.
Finish with call to action and contact.
Boilerplate: Create a paragraph giving basic information about your organization, including historical and current facts. Keep this short, concise and consistent on all communication.
This article “Press (News) Releases” by Sheryl Coltman, was excerpted from: www.churchtoday.org web site. Oct. 2010. It may be used for study & research purposes only.
This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”