Manual: Press releases

NOTE: If you know a member of the media fairly well, it is much better to shoot them an email or give them a call about an event or news than to just send them a press release. However, you can follow-up that personal contact with a press release to clarify details.

Chris Johnson, FCH Vice President of Communications
A good press release requires creativity, but is an excellent way to get the word out about The Fuller Center and your covenant partner. Send one whenever you plan an event, finish a successful event or make a major announcement, such as being sponsored by a local partner.

The most important things to remember are this: You must answer WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, WHY and HOW. Also, you must PROOF READ your press release before sending.

Here is the basic page layout, in the following order:

  • Logo + local office address
  • PRESS RELEASE in large, capital letters
  • The date of the release
  • Contact information for one, preferably two people, with cell phone numbers and email addresses
  • Attention-grabbing headline in large, bold letters with the option of a more detailed subheading

The first paragraph after the headline – This is your “lead” and should pique the interest of the reporter while providing some information. Don’t try to explain everything, but feature the most important or compelling part of the story. Think of it as a quick memo to the reporter.

The second paragraph – This backs up and expands your lead. Use the two together to cover “who, what, where, when, why and how,” with the most important of those in the lead. By the end of the second paragraph, the importance of your story should be apparent and the reader should be interested.

The body of the press release – Write the story with the most important information first. Things that are less relevant go toward the end. (This is the inverted pyramid style of a news story.) A reporter is going to read the release as fast as they can, so don’t bury something crucial or phenomenal in the last paragraph. Keep sentences succinct and paragraphs short.

  • The press release should be no more than two pages. Preferably one page.
  • Include background information and color.
  • Include pithy, interesting quotes from key players. (The newspaper might use these verbatim if they don’t have time to contact anyone.)
  • Spell check, fact check, and watch your grammar. If you’re unsure, have someone proof read it.
  • Never use exclamation points (!). Avoid writing the release like an advertisement. That means go easy on adjectives and stay away from using “I” and “we.” Use a more formal tone, instead.

Concluding the press release– At the very bottom, include a boilerplate, 3-4 line description of The Fuller Center for Housing + local info about your partner. Do not use the mission statement.

Think Like a Reporter…

Reporters are busy and often skeptical of a press releases’ value, especially at large news organizations. Your press release will likely end up in the trash if you don’t remember the following:

  • Newsworthiness, timeliness and relevance are three of the cardinal rules of journalism. Your press release must contain news.
  • Don’t send out a boring press release. Ask yourself if you would be interested reading it and learning about The Fuller Center for the first time.
  • Have someone check your work. Spelling and grammatical errors, as well as general sloppiness, will not gain a reporter’s trust. Make sure dates match, addresses are given, names are spelled correctly and that times are specified a.m. or p.m.
  • Don’t forget contact information. A reporter doesn’t have time to track you down, and won’t.
  • No jargon. Don’t throw around Fuller Center terms without explaining them.
  • Assume the reporter knows nothing about The Fuller Center. Be clear and specific.

Whom to send a press release to:

  • Newspapers
  • Weekly and other alternative newspapers
  • Community and regional newspapers or newsletters
  • Local radio and TV stations. Local NPR affiliates often do free public service announcements, so make sure to get on their calendars.
  • Churches that might make announcements to their congregations
  • Newsletters of local organizations (Rotary, Lions, Chamber of Commerce, etc.)
  • Groups and newspapers at local colleges and universities. Students are an excellent source of volunteers. Find out what campus groups do volunteer work, and stay in touch with them. Also, ads in college newspapers are frequently very cheap.

Guidelines for Sending Press Releases:

In general, you should mail (and/or email) a press release TEN days before an event and follow up with a phone call within THREE days of the event. (If a reporter comes to your event, meet with them, treat them as a special guest and follow up with a thank-you email or phone call.)

When you call before the event, do not ask the reporter if they got your release. Call them to briefly pitch the news and remind them of your story. Be prepared to do an impromptu interview. Have other important contact information available. But, also be prepared to be ignored. Don’t get discouraged! We frequently have success calling local TV stations the morning of an event.

Press releases announcing a newsworthy non-event (a prominent city member joins your effort or a local business gives you a big donation, for example) should go out as soon as you have confirmation or immediately after it happens.

If you have specific questions or would like your press release to be edited (unfortunately, we cannot write it for you), please don’t hesitate to contact Vice President of Communications Chris Johnson at cjohnson@fullercenter.org.

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