Directions for Preparing a Press Release
- A press release is a specially formatted article submitted to a newspaper in the hope that the article will be published in part or in full. A press release has several standard parts:
- date of submission
- release date
- brief heading
- body of article (answering who, what, when, where, and why about the news story)
- contact information
- A press release should be designed as an inverted pyramid, in which the most important facts are presented first in the article, with lesser and lesser important facts added as the press release continues. The purpose of the pyramid format is to allow editors to cut an article from the bottom up in order to fit a space in the newspaper without having to rewrite the article. The teacher may wish to bring sample press releases for the class to analyze in terms of the inverted pyramid.
- Sometimes a press release will be the basis of a news article (which contains facts only) and other times, as a feature article (a human interest story, usually longer than a news article, containing background about participants, anecdotes, quotations, and other interesting aspects to draw in the reader).
Planning a Press Release
- Before beginning to write the release, have students look at some newspaper articles to locate the who, what, where, when, and why answers in them.
- Have students select the main or most important points to make. In the brainstorming session, which one or two of the answers made those points? These answers or main points will give the information for the first one or two sentences, completing the first paragraph. The sample press release in the box below answers the who and what questions first.
- In the remaining paragraphs have students answer the rest of the questions from your brainstorming session, as concisely as possible. Can students find answers to where, when, and why in the sample press release? In which paragraph are they?
- In a brainstorming session have students answer and record the following questions about the project:
- What is being done?
- Who is doing it?
- Where is it being done?
- When is it being done?
- Why is it being done?
Writing a Press Release
- Students should follow standard procedures for journalistic writing:
- Use simple, direct language.
- Avoid long sentences.
- Use action verbs, and avoid adjectives.
- Stick to the facts; avoid judgments and opinions, except in direct quotations.
- Use complete words, not abbreviations.
- Check for correct spelling, punctuation, and grammar.
- Ask someone else to read the release to make sure it is clear.
- Revise it if necessary.
- At the top of the page, type the date of submission and the release date. If the article can be published right away, type "FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE"; if the information is time-specific, include the date, as in "FOR RELEASE APRIL 15, 2003."
- At the top or the bottom, include the name and telephone number (and e-mail, if appropriate) of someone who can answer questions about the project. Do not provide students' home telephone numbers or e-mail addresses.
- Double-space the article. (This extra space allows the newspaper staff to edit directly on the release.)
- Consider including a photograph. Sometimes newspapers like to have a picture to go along with a story. The picture should be a clear, black-and-white photograph that illustrates the subject of the story. Label it with one or two sentences telling who is in the picture and what they are doing. Remember that students' photographs should not be released to the media without written parental permission.
- When the press release is completed, put it in an envelope large enough so the picture fits without folding.
- Write "Attention: Managing Editor," the name of the newspaper, and its address on the envelope.
- It is a good idea to send copies also to school newspapers and community education newsletters.
- Remember that newspaper editors seldom use a whole press release exactly as it is written. Sometimes they rewrite it or only use the picture.
- Use simple, direct language.
If a newspaper publishes the article, your students deserve congratulations! Be sure to show it to parents and principal.