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Do-It-Yourself Press Releases

January 2001
By: Marjori Masitto Krause

Yes, it is possible to get free publicity for your PCC! Several pregnancy centers are converting to medical clinics. Some are opening centers in new areas. Many others are doing walk-a-thons, banquets, and fund-raisers. Did you know all of these things could bring your center free exposure in local media?

It's called PR. PR stands for Public Relations or Press Release. Both are important tools for getting free publicity for your center when it is "caught in the act" of doing good.

If you have anything new, it's news, and you have a reason to write a press release and mail, fax, or e-mail it to every news contact in your area. People make news. So if you have people doing anything good, you have the germ of a human interest story worth printing, reading over the air, or showing on TV.

First, gather a list with contact information of all local news wires, radio stations, TV news stations, and potential donors. This list can be gathered straight from phone books, web sites, and local list distributors. When the list is gathered, it must include a contact name of the correct person to receive the information, a phone number for that person, and an e-mail address. If you don't know who that person is, call the medium and ask who is in charge of editorial on social service agencies. If e-mail is not available, gather a fax number or mailing address. Feel free to call each contact to make sure all information is correct, and to make sure the contact person is correct. If your press releases are directed to the wrong contact person, they will likely be disregarded.

Second, write a press release with a compelling but newsworthy story. Remember that each news outlet has an audience (or readership) and that outlet is always looking for news that will hold the attention of that audience. You have the opportunity to provide them something they want, if you make it interesting.

There are seven basic elements relating to content that should be included in a press release.

  1. FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: These words should appear in the upper left-hand margin, just under the letterhead. Every letter should be capitalized.
  2. Contact Information: Skip a line or two after the release statement and list the name, title, telephone number and fax number of the entity's spokesperson (the person with the most information). It is important to give a home number since reporters often work on deadlines and may not be available until after business hours.
  3. Headline: Skip two lines after the contact information and use a boldface type. The headline should be short and catchy. It should be formatted in a manner similar to a newspaper headline. The headline should be five to ten words.
  4. Dateline: This should be the city your press release is issued from and the date you are mailing your release.
  5. Lead Paragraph: The first paragraph needs to grab the reader's attention and should contain the most pertinent information. Include the five W's: Who, What, When, Where, and Why.
  6. Text: The main body of the press release is where the details should be laid out. This is where the whole story is told.
  7. Recap: At the lower left-hand corner of your last page, restate your product or event specifications. Be sure to highlight your product or event release date.

There are also several basic rules to follow when formatting a Press Release

These rules relate to the appearance of the Press Release.

  • Use 8 1/2" x 11" paper.
  • Use a minimum of one-inch margins on each side of the page.
  • Use a Bold typeface for the headline to draw attention.
  • Capitalize the first letter of all words in the headline with the exception of: a, an, and, the or prepositions such as: of, to, or from. Using the combination of upper and lower case makes the headline easier to read.
  • Make sure each entire paragraph is on the same page. Do not have part of a paragraph run to the second page.
  • Use only one side of each sheet of paper.
  • To let readers know that another page follows, type the word "more" between two dashes and center it at the bottom of the page.
  • Use three number symbols "###" immediately following the last paragraph to indicate the end of the press release.
  • And don't forget to write in pyramid style, i.e., the most important data is first, followed by the next most important, etc. This way, if things get cut due to space constraints, the most important things are likely to be included. 

Make sure the press release does not drag on. Make it concise and to the point. A one-page press release is preferred. Also, make sure the press release is written exactly the way the information needs to be said or read. Many times reporters will use the press release verbatim in an article.

If the press release is written well, it is more likely to be used. Always ask yourself when writing a press release: "Will this information matter to anyone outside my establishment?" If it will matter, print it. If it will not matter, do not print it.

Email is the best way to send press releases. Do not send the release as an attachment only. Paste the release directly into the body of the e-mail also so that recipients will not become frustrated if they are not able to open the attachment. E-mailing will give recipients the ability to file and re-read the press release at an appropriate time.

Once the press release has been e-mailed, it is imperative that the sender call the recipient at least one time soon afterwards. This call is to make sure the contact has received the release and has no further questions. People often take time to read the release because of that phone call.

If your PR effort is done correctly, your news, story, or event will be mentioned by every news outlet that has room for it or an interest in it. Lots of money can be spent on advertising, but PR is free!.


Marjori Masitto Krause, B.S., is an Account Executive for Marketing Partners, Inc. She can be reached at 1-800-588-7744 or marjori@mkpt.com.



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