How to Write a Press Release - Your Key to Free Fundraising Publicity
Learn How to Write a Press Release
A press release is one of the best ways to get the word out about your fundraising event. If your event is meant to attract members of the community at large, rather than just your congregation, the press release is an important part of your publicity arsenal.
A press release is a notice that you send to the media informing them of the details of your fundraising event, so that they can report it, if they choose. Unlike a display or classified ad, news coverage is free.
Most often you will get your event listed in a 'Community Calendar.' In a smaller community, you might get a short article printed about your forthcoming event. Don't expect to get major press coverage, unless your event is very unusual, or benefits a particularly newsworthy cause.
Press Release Format
What does a press release look like? Over time certain conventions built up around the format of a press release. The basic idea is, always, to provide information about the event, and the contact details of someone who can answer any questions the media may have. Here's the lowdown on how to write a press release.
In the top left hand of the page, begin with either "For Immediate Release" or "For Release on [insert date]" in bold and all caps. Typically, you will choose the first option. Use the second option only if you have to send the release in earlier than it should be published.
Skip several lines from the 'release line' and put the title. Use a large bold font, if you are using a computer to prepare your release. A second headline, in a smaller font can also be used.
The dateline consists of the city of your organization and the date of the release. Place it just before the text of your release.
This is the body of the press release. You should start out strong, with the first paragraph providing the core details of the release. Subsequent paragraphs, if any, will provide more detail, but will be increasingly optional. This allows the editor to cut from the bottom, and use as much of your release as he or she has space for, with a minimum of thought. Please note, however, that a press release should not exceed a single page in length.
Write your release in the third person, as if you were a reporter, and not a member of the sponsoring organization. This way the media can print it 'as is' if they choose.
You are more likely to catch the attention of the media if you have a clever headline and opening paragraph. However, don't hold off sending it until you have an inspired concept. The most important thing is to get the press release delivered. Many fundraising events won't provide a novel hook for a clever headline, but if you get the release out, your event stands a good chance of making it into the 'community calendar' and attracting the attention of people who might not otherwise know about the event.
Skip a line or two and provide your contact information. Include as much information as you can. Provide a name, title, telephone number. If you have them, include a fax number, your Church website and an email address. However, you should only provide email if it's checked regularly. If you provide an email address that you only check once a week, any questions sent there may not be seen until after it's too late. Usually when the media have a question, they need the answer right away, because they're often on a publication deadline.
Skip down two lines, and in the center of the page, and put "###" or "-30-" (omit quotes) to signal that the release is complete at that point, that there will be no additional pages. This convention was started during the teletype period, when teletypes printed onto a roll of paper. The symbol indicated that the incoming message was complete, and the paper could be torn off at that point.
A Sample Fundraising Press Release
Here's a sample press release for a typical Church fundraiser, a rummage sale.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
The Sunday School Program of Christ Church to hold Rummage Sale
The event benefits the community by providing quality used goods at bargain prices.
Your town, Any State, June 16, 2006. - The Sunday School Program of Christ Church will hold its semi-annual Rummage Sale on Saturday Nov 28th, 2006. This major rummage sale will feature-quality furniture, clothing, house wares, appliances, toys, sporting goods, baby supplies, hardware, and much more. This year there is a good selection of high end and designer clothes, among other items. In addition, there will be refreshments for sale. Sale hours will be 10 am to 4 pm in the Parish Hall of Christ Church, (insert address of church). Public transportation is available via 7 and 10 buses. Admission to the event is free.
For More Information:
Rummage Sale Chair
Office of Christ Church
Deliver your Press Release
So, now you know how to write a press release. How do you get it out to the media? Which media? When?
Make a List
Consider all the local media in your area, and jot down those your target audience are likely to read, watch or listen to. Of those, which are likely to publish your news? In some communities, the local TV or radio stations may consider your event newsworthy; if you live in a major media market, such as a big city, it's unlikely that they will. You know your local conditions. Consider your local radio stations, television stations, weekly and daily newspapers. If you know of an internet site with local news and an events calendar, consider including it as well.
For each media outlet that makes your list, contact them, by phone, and ask them how to submit a press release � email, fax, regular mail - and to whom to submit the release. You also want to ask them their cutoff � the latest point when they can accept information for the next publication date. You will want to save this information for future press releases, so put it someplace safe.
Before you send a press release, consult with the Church office, your Pastor or Priest, an Elder, etc. Determine if you need to have the release approved before it can be sent. Your Church may have a very cautious media policy. Better safe than sorry.
When to Send
So, you have the list of media to send the release, and your release has been approved, if that was necessary. When do you send it? Consider your event. How much advance notice would people typically to have? In the case of the rummage sale example, above, people probably want to know about it 1-2 weeks in advance. So, after contacting the local media, you determine what the press deadlines are for the publication that occurs at that point. That is, the deadline immediately preceding the issue in which you'd like your notice to be published in. This is the submission deadline for that media outlet. Of course, you don't want to take it to the brink. So, plan to deliver it some time before the deadline � possibly even before the previous issue's deadline.
How to Send
You will want to use the method that each media outlet prefers, which you established when you called them previously. Some will prefer email. Some will prefer a fax. Very few will prefer postal mail. Whatever their preference, you will want to respect it.
In the case of email, it is possible to use automation to make things easier the next time around. Where media outlets have press deadlines close enough together that you can send them the release on the same day, you may want to take advantage of an email list or alias feature in your email software. Care should be taken that the email is addressed to a generic 'Calendar of Events Editor' or similar, and that you use the 'bcc' feature of your email application. You don't want to include your recipients list for all to see. One way to do this is to send the email to you, with the media outlets in the bcc field.
If you have a fax application on your computer, you can do the same thing for those media outlets that prefer to receive a press release by fax. It may take some playing around to determine the best way to set up a fax group, but once it's done, it makes sending the press release much faster next time.
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