ICN media course 2 – How to write a press release

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Image by Christin Hume on Unsplash

Something has happened – or there is an event brewing in your parish, school, or community – that you would like to tell more people about than you reach in your weekly newsletter.

You can put up posters or advertise in local media – but the best way is to put out a press release in your local newspaper, community website, local radio and TV stations. If it’s a bigger story, send it to the trade press (a story about a homelessness project would be of interest to housing and social work journals) and national media as well.

A press release is just an announcement – all media depend on it for a good deal of their information. Write a good one and you might find it published verbatim. But often journalists will want to dig deeper and write their own story – starting with the information you alerted them to.

There are no absolutes – but as a general rule with reporting you should try to answer the questions: WHO? WHAT? WHEN? OR? WHY? And HOW in your first paragraph or two.

For example:

Cardinal Vincent Nichols blessed a newly installed knife bin at St Paul the Apostle Church in Wood Green, north London, on Sunday January 23. This bin, which was provided by Word4Weapons and funded by Caritas Westminster, is a secure amnesty bin for knives and other edged weapons. Bins are placed away from CCTV, in an effort to encourage people to hand over knives which could otherwise be used to commit crimes, causing serious injury or death.

The following paragraph will provide more details:

The launch of the knife bin at St Paul the Apostle is one of the ways the Wood Green Catholic community is celebrating its 140th anniversary and 50 years of the current church. Elsewhere, on February 9, another new knife bin will be launched at St Mary and St Michael’s Catholic Church near Commercial Road – the fifth such bin provided by the partnership of Word4Weapons and Caritas Westminster.

After that – provide one or two quotes:

Parish priest Fr Perry Sykes said: “Birthdays are first and foremost a time of thanksgiving, when we look back and appreciate again all that has contributed to the growth and well-being of the Wood Green Mission. Those who formed this first community would be happy and happy to see all that has come from such small beginnings. The installation and blessing of the knife bin by Cardinal Vincent yesterday is part of our mission continues here in the community of Wood Green.

Conclude with contact information for one or more people who will be available to answer further questions. (email addresses or phone numbers) Make sure you have permission to give them out – and check that these people will be available to talk.

You can add a photo. Make sure you have permission to use the image. Name the photographer or source of the image and of course provide a caption to go with it.

Make a short title – and you’re good to go.

It is important that press releases are as concise as possible. Publishers receive hundreds of these every day – so also try to write a short headline that will catch their attention. For example: ‘Lion discovered in the church’ – reads better than ‘:’Archaeologists discover a distinctive Victorian fresco on the wall of a Surrey church during renovations”.

Write the date on your release

Write your name or the source of the press release

Don’t write a two or three level headline.

TRY NOT to write titles in all caps.

AVOID using the, a or a in a title if you can.

Following next week…

Keywords: Media Courses, Media, News, ICN Media Courses

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