You may be too young to remember this, but there was a time when press releases were the ONLY means of getting a piece of company news out to the world! Yes, in the “olden days” before social media and websites, the press release was THE vehicle to let people know what was going on with a company or organization.
Now the press release is considered so five minutes ago - what with social media and all. But believe it or not, a press release is still a valuable tool for distributing news about your organization.
Not only can you distribute a press release through a newswire service (or using your own list), but you can post it to your website, and share it via social media (with links!) to help boost your search engine optimization.
When writing a press release, there are a few things to consider (and these apply to everyone, not just nonprofits):
- Lead with the most important information (who, what, when, why, how) then continue, with the least important (or least relevant) information to follow.
- Focus on one specific piece of news or information - a new campaign; a new executive director.
- Write succinctly; don’t use opinionated language and hyperbole. Just report the facts.
- Pay attention to the details. This includes not only formatting but grammar and spelling. Press releases are intended to have a more formal and official tone than say, a blog post. Make sure your writing reflects that.
- Tell an engaging story. This may seem counterintuitive to the above, but you can tell a powerful story using statistics, quotes, and supporting multimedia. After all, a press release IS about your organization and you are awesome! So feel free to tell the world about how awesome you are!
- Most importantly, include all your social links in the news release - Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+. Throughout the day, tweet about the content; post the news release on all of your social sites. Include a photo - it will increase the likelihood of getting more clicks. And, if video is available and relevant, post that as well - in a separate tweet/post. Use your content wisely. The more dimensional you can make your press release and the more you can make it come to life for your readers, the more likely they are going to want to re-tell your story.
So, now that you know what to do with the press release, the next question is: how do you write it?
In the old school Public Relations (PR) days, no release was supposed to be more than three paragraphs, plus a boilerplate (I’ll explain that in a sec). While some requirements have loosened over the years, one rule of thumb remains: they should still be no longer than one page!
Nonprofit Press Release Outline:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: on the left side of the page, in bold, all caps
CONTACT: Add the contact person from your organization. This information should comprise the name, phone numbers, email address and website URL. This is usually found on the left side of the page, above the headline.
[HEADLINE] What do you want the world to know? This should grab the reader’s attention.
[FIRST PARAGRAPH] should begin with [City], [State], [Date]. The “lead” paragraph is the most important paragraph. If someone was going to just use this paragraph and a link, this should have ALL of the pertinent information. Draw your reader in. If necessary, the lead should stand on its own.
[Body] Here’s where you fill in the details and build on your lead paragraph. Provide some background information on the program or event. Think of your target audience and write so they and the general public will understand. Tell a story. Connect why it’s relevant to your organization and your readers. More importantly, explain the purpose of your event, campaign or announcement and make the reader want to find out more, visit your website and/or contact you for more information.
[Quote] Strong, relevant quotes are great to include because they not only add the human touch, but enable you to get in the “extra” information that may not be as “journalistic”. Depending on the news, an organizational leader, staff or supporter can be the storyteller for your organization or campaign. The quote can increase the impact of the whole release.
[Boilerplate] This is the standard description of your organization, along with your website address and a contact name. Here is ours:
About Salsa Labs
Salsa Labs (Salsa) helps nonprofits and political campaigns ignite action and fuel change around the world by growing and engaging a base of support online. With Salsa, groups of all sizes can easily organize their supporters and chapters, fundraise, advocate, communicate through email and social media, host events and measure results. Salsa provides more than technology; it offers strategic best practices, training, highly rated support and a strong online community, so its clients can focus their energy on their mission. The company currently empowers more than 3,000 organizations’ and their more than 75 million donors, members, activists and fans across the globe. For media information, contact Leah Wilkinson, WilkinsonShein for Salsa, 703-907-0010 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit Salsa online at www.SalsaLabs.com.
NOTE: If the campaign or event or happening is in partnership with another organization, include their information too. It is the polite thing to do.
[END] Use ### at the end of the release, centered on the page. It indicates that there is no more copy to read.