When your organization has news to share or an announcement to make, a press release is the natural way – and still a useful way – to do that.
It still feels strange for me sometimes to be talking about press releases because I was the recipient rather than the creator of them for so long in my former life as a newspaper reporter. I received so many of them every day, and, no, I didn’t respond to all of them but would respond to certain ones that were the most newsworthy and had reasonable follow-up from the sender.
Press releases are certainly still relevant, particularly for your own internal use. They can be good for search engine optimization (SEO) when posted to your website and can be repurposed on your social media channels.
I can’t stress how important it is that you use news like this for your own organization because there’s no guarantee stories that may have been covered even a few years ago will be covered today. Newsrooms across the country have shrunk rapidly during the past decade (employment dropped by 23 percent from 2008 to 2017, according to this Pew Research Center article).
In addition to making your press releases timely and newsworthy, here are a few other tips and best practices to apply to your writing.
The beginning of your release should have the city where the news is taking place,as well as the date. Put the city name in all caps and abbreviate the statename (ROCKFORD, Ill.). Your bigger cities – Chicago, Milwaukee, Minneapolis –stand alone in the dateline.
ROCKFORD, Ill. (January 16, 2019) – It was a dark and stormy night …
CHICAGO (January 16, 2019) – It was a dark and stormy night …
Time, date, place.
This might be a leftover from my days at the newspaper, but I think it’s still a good general rule to follow. If you’rewriting about an event coming up, include the time and the date for when it’staking place, as well as the location – in that order. If it’s at 1 p.m., write it just like that; you don’t need the extra zeros (1:00 p.m.). It’s always a good idea to include the address, especially if you’re inviting media for a press conference or announcement. For street names, only abbreviate street,boulevard and avenue when paired with numbers – not road, drive, etc. Yes,that’s one of those weird AP rules.
Don’t forget the contact info.
Also include a name, phone number and email, whenever possible, so people can contact you about the news you’redistributing if they have questions. And if you’re sending out the information,you’re on the hook for responding. Don’t send out a news release if you’re not going to make yourself available; this may mean including your cell phone.
Keep it simple.
Even though newsrooms are smaller these days, that hasn’t reduced the volume of information reporters and editors are still bombarded with every day. Don’t write a book – keep your press release short and simple.Following style rules will make it easier for them to reproduce the news when it’s time.
When in doubt, look it up.
I remember many a newspaper editor and colleague telling me that when I would ask a style question openly in the newsroom. The online AP Stylebook is one of the first tabs I open in the morning, and I leave it open all day for that very reason. If I come across a style question I don’t know the answer to, it takes me a few quick seconds to look it up. I sometimes send the entries to my coworkers if they ask me a question or as I’m editing their press releases (sorry, friends).