Being raised by a journalist, I have come to discover that most families do not have a dark room for developing film, and do not use office supplies as toys. From my early experiences and from going on to study marketing and design, I have learned a great deal about getting the news “out there”. Our media has drastically changed, but the basic elements remain the same. This guide summarizes over 40 years of experience with news and marketing, both online and in print media, and I hope it brings you great success!
What is a Press Release?
A press release is a written summary of an event such as a business grand opening, festival or even a book release. It is not an advertisement so you will not pay for ad space, but it must be newsworthy or the media will not pick it up and run it.
Basically, you are letting the media know about your event with the hope that they will publish your information. Press releases for new businesses often result in a reporter contacting the business and doing a full interview or story. Online, a press release may be distributed by social media, blogs, and e-zines for immediate publicity.
A press release is usually tied to an organization or business. They are distributed to the media, and individual publications decide whether or not they will print your summary. Publications may edit your summary due to printing space restraints, but they should never need to edit your spelling or grammar.
A press release may also be called: news release, media release, press statement or video release.
Why create a press release?
- If you want your information to be picked up by magazines, radio stations, blogs, podcasts, newspapers, television stations, trade journals or any other publication that covers your industry, you will need to provide these publications with your information. That is done through your press release.
- Journalists and publishers tend to trust a good press release and are more likely to run your “story” or information. This is especially true when you consistently provide them with reliable content on a regular basis. Many Pagan organizations benefit from a long-term press release strategy, providing a release at least once or twice a year to keep the media aware of your name.
- Press releases improve your media relations. The media will come to trust you as the source to consult for other stories they are working on. For example, if a local journalist knows that you are an organized, stable Pagan group, they may come to you for interviews when Pagan or occult stories cross their desks.
- Press releases are far less expensive then traditional advertising, and many publications will pick up your press release free if the information applies to their audience. You can send your press release to key publications, or hire a press release distribution service to do it for you. Distribution services range widely in price, but will still cost less than traditional ad space.
- Major media outlets on a national and global level often pick up their stories from small, local media services. Even one press release picked up by a local newspaper or blog can get the word out on a much larger scale.
- Many people tune out advertising, and will not even glance at your glossy, expensive ad space. More people are likely to read a news blurb a publication has included due to your press release.
Good Press Releases = Good Public Relations
Press releases are an “old school” form of distributing news and promotional materials. But “old school” certainly does not mean outdated! Today’s press releases look a bit different than they did twenty or thirty years ago, but creating your own is a fairly straightforward task. A good press release can bring good “PR”.
How to Write a Press Release
Follow my three R’s of Press Releases: Riveting, Relevant & Reliable
Publishers online and offline want riveting, relevant and reliable news. To increase the chances that they will pick up your press release, read it as if you are a news reporter. As a reporter, you wish to draw in your readers, link your press release to current trends, and increase readership of your publication. Does your press release fulfill these needs and desires?
- Always write in the third person, from the outside observer as a reporter would do. . . “he, she, they” rather than “I, me, we”.
- Pitch your story. Make it exciting and intriguing.
- Use a standard template so your media outlets are familiar with your format.
- Use one or two fonts unless you are going for the “ransom note” effect. If you use colors, consider that most fax machines will not render them properly, and most news offices are using black-only laser printers. Also, remember that about 1 in 12 men and 1 in 200 women are color blind so keep your contrast sharp! Your “sea foam green and carnation pink theme” may look like the same gray color to some people.
- Use column justification. This format is familiar to journalists and is easy to read at-a-glance.
- Keep it brief, about 500 total words in four or five paragraphs.
- Include a “call-to-action” such as: Visit the website at. . . or Get tickets from. . .
- Use a consistent logo on your press release, business cards, organization logo, etc. This branding will help the media link your communications to you and give you a professional, consistent appearance.
- Optimize Legibility: Online and digital press releases should be in a sans-serif font (Arial, Helvetica, Tahoma, Open Sans, etc.). For printed and faxed press releases, use a serif font (Times, Garamond, Caslon, Palatino, etc). Keep a font size for your text of at least 12 pt.
- Use two spaces after periods at the end of a sentence. For online submissions, this can be ignored and a single space is acceptable.
- Remember the who, what, when, where, and why. Think like a reporter when you proofread your work, and answer questions in your text that a reporter might have.
- Many journalists like to see quotes in your press releases. If you have a testimonial or quote that is really good, include it:
J. Doe says, “. . . we are not Pagan, but we are going to this festival because they are always so much fun and we have a lot of Pagan friends going.”
Or even better, include a brief quote from your founder or a VIP who is coming to your event.
- Export or print your press release as a PDF or other widely available format. Most modern media outlets are ditching the expensive proprietary software and sticking to open source such as OpenOffice. To ensure that your format isn’t drastically changed, make a PDF or use Google docs instead of sending a Microsoft Word attachment.
- Include the contact information for your PR person at the bottom boilerplate.
Distribute Your Press Release
Mail, Fax or E-mail your press release to. . .
- The appropriate media. Get to know your publications so you aren’t wasting everyone’s time and money by sending an irrelevant press release to a media outlet that does not carry the type of story you are offering. Is your news is appropriate for the venue you have chosen? A psychic fair is not going to be of interest to an antique collector’s journal.
- The appropriate person. Get to know the people in the media so your press release isn’t lost in the mountains of communications most publishers receive. Most publications such as magazines have a boilerplate with information about submissions and the staff members responsible. Online media almost always has an “About” section or a “Meet the Staff” area. Use this information to send your press release to the right person.
These templates were created by the author of this article and are hosted on the PaganPath site. PaganPath provides free services to Witches, Wiccans, and Pagans of all paths.
Now you have the information you need to create a good press release, go ahead and try it. You can find templates online through a quick Google search for Word, OpenOffice and many other programs, but keep in mind the tips outlined here. Not all templates are good, but they can be a good start if you utilize the information you learned here. Good luck and many bright blessings to you!
Written & illustrated by your ARPagans.com publisher, Friday Gladheart