Writing a Press Release
One of the easiest ways of learning how to write a press release is to see what goes in to the papers. Press releases are written with similar styles to the articles that appear, and the less work a journalist has to do - often - the better.
A press release should be printed on to headed note paper - this will clearly identify it as from your organisation. If you don't have headed paper, scan your logo and start from there. Then, at the top of the page should be the words “Press Release. For Immediate Release” (or For Release on such a date). Below this comes the title of the press release. The title isn't the heading that the journalist will use in writing up the story (perhaps very occasionally), but you still need to be a bit interesting to get the attention of somebody with a load of press releases each day. Put the title in bold and underlined.
The first paragraph of a press release has to contain the answers to the questions Who, What, Why, Where, When and How? This paragraph should contain only a few sentences and should be the interesting hook on which to carry the rest of the story. A line at the end might be necessary to make the whole thing interesting. The opening paragraph could read something like: “Yosef Tarshish wrote an article this June, in an effort to ensure that Jewish students could communicate with the press. This Jerusalem based project has been conducted mostly on Tuesdays, and is causing ripples in the insular WUJS world.” Simple and to the point, a good first paragraph is essential. Don't be surprised if writing the first paragraph causes a lot of annoyance and takes a lot of time.
After the first paragraph, fill out the rest of the story. Don't use your organisation's slang, or assume any background knowledge on the behalf of the journalist or reader. This doesn't mean that every press release should explain what your organisation is - but specific project names should not be abbreviated, for example, and things should be explained if necessary. Use short paragraphs, and simple language.
Mention the name of your organisation a few times throughout the story. Remember that the journalist who will use your release for a story (or if they are very lazy just put in as a story) might want to cut bits. These bits might contain your organisation's name - and then the publicity might not be as good for your organisation. Weave your organisation into whatever story you are releasing into your text so that it can't easily be removed.
Be sure to include some quotes. Don't let quotes sound unnatural. They should be interesting - but not too obviously made up. It is fine to make up quotes (everyone does it...) but at least make the effort to do it realistically. Quotes look good scattered through the release.
A press release should be less than one side of A4. If possible, space it at one- and-a-half-lines. Some people finish the body of their text with the words 'Ends - xxx words' (and write how many words the release is). At the end of the press release write who should be contacted for more information, and give a phone number that they can be easily contacted on.
The rules for press releasing things to synagogue magazines is of course a bit different. Instead of wanting press releases that journalists will use to write stories from, editors here are looking for finished articles. So make sure that they are given well written and properly fleshed-out pieces.
If photos are available for, or included with a press release, write this down. If photos are included describe them, and give the names of the people in the photos, as well as the name of the person who took the photo. Photos are a great way of getting noticeable coverage. The best kind of photos to send are of a few people (four or five), with an interesting background. Photos aren't returned. Occasionally it is possible to persuade a journalist to send a newspaper photographer. This is very good - as they tend to use the photos they get from this source.