Publicity vs. Advertising

Many organizations assume that newspapers are waiting breathlessly by the fax or constantly checking their email to receive their latest news releases. NOTHING COULD BE FURTHER FROM THE TRUTH. Usually, newspapers are overwhelmed with news releases and so there is no guarantee that it will be used. Also know that when you submit a news release, it can be changed. Newspaper editors look for a specific style in writing and will edit your release to reflect the industry’s standard. 

Many organizations churn out news releases written just to obtain free advertising. If you’re just after advertising, the only way to guarantee that your event, need or community project will “make the paper”  in larger newspapers is actually to advertise it – that means buy an ad. 

Is it news?

Ask the question, “Is this really newsworthy?” If it’s newsworthy, the information you present will appeal to a large audience not just a select few. The subject matter will draw the attention of people not connected to the project and ignite a desire to learn more about the organization or event. A quality press release should answer the most simple of questions: Who, What, When, Where, and Why. If it can’t, then perhaps the activity is not ready for the papers. The release should focus on something or someone unique and present a unique perspective for the reader.

Standard News Release Format

  • Double-spaced with two-inch margins so the editor can make notes.
  • Use one side of 8.5x11 paper. Do not exceed two pages. Longer releases are not read.
  • Use letterhead. Date the release.  Always identify a contact person, their title, phone number, cell phone, fax and email contact information at the top of the page.
  • Always identify the information as “For Immediate Release” or “Embargoed until __date____”
  • Write a headline above the story – Bold font and underlined.
  • Identify the town from which the story originates, enclosed in parentheses. Follow this with two dashes.  (Tulsa--)
  • Lead with a sentence that sums up the story.
  • Use the most important information first. Follow it with sentences in decreasing order of significance.
  • At the end of the release indicate “–END-“ or “-30-“
  • If the release covers more than one page put “–MORE-“at the bottom of the first page.
  • Always put any additional contact information at the end of the release.

Other Tips for news release writing:

  • Open big…try to grab the reader’s attention
  • Use real life examples
  • Base it on facts
  • Keep it focused
  • Use active voice not passive
  • Don’t ramble, be specific
  • Do not use abbreviations or jargon that the average person would not understand
  • Do not over punctuate or write in all upper case characters
  • Use multiple paragraphs

The first paragraph should provide the specifics and answer the five W’s: who, what, when, where, and why. Let the text wrap naturally and do not place hard returns at the end of each line. 

Electronic Newspapers

Different newspapers have different requirements regarding the use of email addresses and websites. Research each newspaper to learn requirements. 

Be careful with email

Technology continues to advance communication standards. Be careful listing personal email addresses and websites in a press release. Once printed, that information is available to Spiders and Spammers. Your risk of receiving spam or having your email harvested increases. 

Ticker Symbols

Never include the symbol of another company or organization without their written approval.