What is a press release?
A press release is a way of communicating with journalists and the media. If written well it will tell them what the story is at a glance - making their job easier and making it more likely they will use your story. Journalists get hundreds of press releases every day so you need to make sure yours stands out from the crowd.
Why do I want to bother?
A press release is a way of telling other people what you are doing or have done, why you do it, what you are planning to do now. It gives them an insight into what activities you do, what they could do and why they may want to become involved in the Air Cadets.
People have little knowledge of Air Cadets. While they may associate us with Flying, Gliding or the RAF, they tend not to know the full range of activities we offer. A press release is a way of showing a wide range of people what we do and gives you a great opportunity to advertise yourself.
To an average Air Cadet, flying in a plane and doing aerobatics is nothing unusual. Spending a weekend trekking across the Moors on a Duke of Edinburgh Expedition is not strange. Travelling half way across the country and pending a week on an RAF station is not odd. However to the general public this is unusual, different and interesting. A press release allows you to show these activities to people who would not normally see them.
"We are our own worst kept secret"
So, you have decided to write a press release, you think you have a story, what should you do next?
You need to ask yourself a few questions before you start:
Is your press release really necessary?
Is it actually news?
What would be your headline?
Can you sum the story up in 25 words or less?
If you can not answer these, then maybe you need to reconsider if this is actually a press release.
If you are able to answer these, then the next step is to write the press release. A press release follows a general format, which can be adapted and changed to suit the article you are writing. A guide is given below:
- This needs to be short and catchy. It is the headline that will sell the piece to both the editor and the audience. It should be relevant to the story and give a sense of what the story is about.
- This is optional. It provides a way of adding a little extra detail to the headline. Again this should not be too long, but may be more detailed that the headline.
- This should summarise the story in a few lines. It should tell the reader what and who the story is about. Why it is a story, where and when it took place.
- This should flesh out the story, fill in the details given in the first paragraph. You may wish to do this over a few paragraphs, however do be wary of making the story too long and include irrelevant information.
- Use this paragraph for quotes relevant to the story. Don€™t try to put too much into one quote. Each quote should make one point. If you want to highlight something else, use another quote.
- This is used for additional information. It is usually used to include a brief advert for the writer, stating who they are, when they parade and how interested parties can contact them.
- Where possible, photographs should be included with the press release. They should be relevant to the release and also be of suitable quality. You should include a summary with each photograph, stating what is shown, who and where.
- This is used to tell the editor that the main story has finished. Anything after this is additional information that can be used but is not needed for the story.
Notes to Editor
- This section contains any additional information you wish to add. It may be a brief summary of who you are, what you do etc. It should also include your contact information and when you can be reached.
Once you have written your press release, what do you do with it now?
The best thing to do is to read over the article and make sure it makes sense. Then ask someone else to read it, there is always the chance you have become word blind and are reading what you think it says, not what it actually says. Also make sure that you spell check the story.
Once you know the story is fine to send out, the next thing to do is to send it to the relevant people. Today it is often easier to email the article out to the relevant people, rather than post it off.
When you send the email, ensure you place the story in the body and not solely as an attachment. This allows the reader to instantly see what they have. With editors receiving hundreds of press releases a day, if they have to open something to read it they may not bother. Ensure you attach copies of all photographs relevant to the story and ensure they are named so they can be identified.
If you are sending the email to multiple people, use the BCC: rather than To:. This will hide all other email addresses used from the recipient and make it appear it was sent only to them. Editors like to feel they have an exclusive, or that you considered them first rather than another publisher.
Consider who you are sending the article to. If it is of local interest you may only wish to contact local papers and agencies. However if the story is larger, unusual or involved a number of people from different areas (such as a summer camp), you may want to send it to a number of local and regional sources.
Also consider other places to send the story. Your Wing and Region website will often publish articles. You can also send the story to the Air Cadet Website, for inclusion in the Air Cadet Magazine, to the RAF News (Who have a cadet section), other publications relevant to the event (The Award magazine for a D of E story perhaps). Remember, the press release is a way to tell people about what you do and how they can get involved, the wider audience you can reach, the better the reception.
However do not just send it out to irrelevant people. They will not appreciate getting a story which is of no use to them. It may result in them ignoring relevant stories you send later.