A press release is an official statement that is released to the media (such as local newspaper or radio station) to give them information about a specific matter. It has a strict format and provides journalists with information in the hope they will write an article to promote or celebrate your event.
Remember, a press release is a pitch to the media, to get them interested in your story so you need to include an angle that is newsworthy.
When would a school/club need to write a press release
- To promote an upcoming event or fundraiser
- To commemorate a major anniversary or milestone
- To celebrate a major achievement or award
- The launch of a fundraiser or appeal
What should your press release include
- A brief cover letter/introductory email
- The words ‘Press Release’, the date and ‘For immediate release’ (unless you don’t want the story to be published before a particular date, which you should clearly specify ‘Time Sensitive’)
- A short, interesting headline that explains exactly what the story is about (don’t be clever or ambiguous)
- The first line should summarise the entire story
- ‘Who’, ‘what’, ‘where’, ‘when’ should then be covered in no more than two sentences
- ‘How’ and ‘why’ can be covered by relevant quotes
- Always write in the third person
- Contact details (especially a phone number), names and their positions [note: if you are listed as the contact person on the press release, make sure you answer your phone and/or respond to messages immediately]
- Images where appropriate (with captions and names)
- Your boilerplate (one or two lines about your organisation including relevant facts and mission statements. Your logo can go here)
- Finish with the word ‘Ends’ to show it is the end of the release
How to get your press released noticed
- One size does not fit all. Take the time to rewrite the press release it make it relevant to each agency you are sending it to. If you’re sending the story to the local paper, make sure you highlight how it’s relevant to the local area. If you’re sending the story to a regional magazine that focuses on children, emphasise the role children/students have had in your event
- As you are writing, keep asking yourself ‘why should people care about this?’ What makes this fete so unique, why is this art show so interesting? It must be newsworthy. If it is just another bake sale run by your cricket team, think instead about what you’re going to spend the money on, or if you have a special guest working behind the register.
- If you are emailing your press release, your subject line is very important and will determine whether people bother reading it; try and compose the headline and/or subject heading using the five Ws (who, what, where, when and why).
- Write your press release like the journalist is your audience – you must interest and intrigue them to want to know more (which in turn they will want to share with their audience)
Where should you send your press release
- Local newspaper
- Local radio station
- Your local council (they often have ‘news’ or ‘what’s on’ pages that promote community events)
- Popular blogs that cover events in your city or local area
- City/state newspapers
- Television stations
- Online news sites
- Even if you don’t have a press release to send them right now, it may be worth creating a file of possible future press contacts, making note of their specific style and formatting guides. Make a phone call, explain who you are and where you are from and ask ‘what is the best way to send you a press release’ – make sure you get a contact name, an email and if possible a phone number
- Be creative with your press contacts. If you have a lined up some major sponsors for your school fete, they probably would be willing to share stories about your event on their social media or newsletters. Make sure all your event sponsors, large and small, are sent copies of your press releases
What not to do
- Do not use a click-bait headline or subject heading that isn’t relevant to the story
- Do not use jargon, corporate-speak or boring technical terms
- Do not use clichés or superlatives (ie be specific and don’t oversell yourself)
- Do not confuse a press release with an advert or marketing. It’s a communication to a journalist in the hopes they will write a story about your event or news.
- Do not write more than a single page (maximum 400 words)
- Don’t mention the names of people or quote people who are not willing to be followed up for an interview
Other tips for a great press release
- Get to the point in the first paragraph, make people care about the final paragraph
- If you’re not sure how to summarise your story, try this trick: imagine your story is about to be introduced by a television reporter. They have about five seconds to hook viewers interest – how would they introduce your story?
- Provide all the relevant information (date, location etc)
- Provide interesting statistics and pithy quotes where possible
- Write your press release to match the tone and style of the press you are writing for
- If you’re not confident writing in a journalistic style, just write dot points instead
- If you are sending the same press release to multiple newspapers, send each one a unique photograph (and let them know this). Be mindful of the size of the images you are sending
- Send your press release in the body of the email and as an attachment
- If you’re not sure how to phrase something, have a look at articles already published by the medium you’re approaching and follow their example. For example, if you want your local newspaper to write a story about your upcoming school fete, go through previous editions of the paper and see how they have structured stories about other school events. Look at the headline. What is opening paragraph? What sort of picture has been included? Remember, it is the structure you are trying to replicate – not the content.
- Create a file for press releases including the press release itself, a copy of the final published story and the contact details of the journalist/photographer. Make this available for future fundraising/events co-ordinators in your organisation
Press Release Sample
[Email subject heading] Press Release: Australian Survivor Stars to Open Ferrimont Twilight Fete
17 September 2020 —For Immediate Release:
Australian Survivor Stars to Open Ferrimont Twilight Fete November 13
Popular Australian Survivor stars Luke Toki and Dave ‘The Golden God’ Genet will open the inaugural Ferrimont Twilight Fete at Ferrimont Primary School on Friday November 13. The reality TV stars will be on-stage as MCs throughout the three-hour event, which runs from 5 to 8pm and will be held on the school oval on Harry Street, Ferrimont.
This is the first major fete in the school’s one hundred year history and will have a sideshow alley with rides and games, a dozen market stalls, a second-hand book stall, a large international food zone with a wine bar and ongoing free entertainment from students and local bands.
There will also be a silent auction on the night with a number of unusual prizes, including dinner with either David or Luke at the local Hungry Jacks. Local community groups such as Men’s Shed and Model Trains of WA have been invited to set up displays and there will be demonstrations by local dance and martial arts schools.
Ferrimont Fete Organiser Brooke Rivers stated-
“Both David and Luke are proud West Aussies who are happy to support our inaugural Twilight Fete. All the funds raised will be used to build a ninja ropes course for students, and it is our dream that one day we see a Ferrimont ex-student win Australian Survivor.”
Further Details / Contact
Brooke Rivers – Ferrimont Primary P&C 0123 456 789 email – firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to editors:
Ferrimont Primary School is an independent government primary school for K-6. It was established in 1918 and provides a balanced education for all children while encouraging a strong sense of community and curiosity about the world.