If you want your chance at the spotlight, you need to stand out. A well-written press release never guarantees you’ll get your story, but it certainly is the foundation to getting into the media.

Is your message hyperventilating? Know the rules of a good press release:

  • Tell a story.  Remember you are selling a story, not your nonprofit. Your organization messaging comes at the end as the credibility component

  • Use local angles. Media consumers want to read about their neighbors and communities.

  • Include media contact information. Media contacts may or may not be your CEO, rather, media contacts are people who are readily available and can speak well to the topic

  • Formatting sells your message. Clear formatting makes press releases “readable”. Have a very clear headline, followed by the story and supporting data bullet pointed. Tell the media when they can release the story - most stories carry the title “FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE”.  Properly formatted, press releases end with “-30-” or “###”

  • Know the inverted pyramid. Schools of journalism continue to teach the inverted pyramid as the rule to journalism. The inverted pyramid principle says you should put your most important point at the top of the article, followed by your next most important point, and so on, in diminishing order of importance

  • Boilerplate your nonprofit’s information. Include a brief description of your organization’s purpose.

Above are the basic “you’ve just got to know them” rules of press releases. Let me add two less obvious media rules that have stuck with me:

  • Keep editorial comments to quotes only. Press releases should not start with “We are pleased to announce…” The fact that you’re sending a press release makes this pretty obvious. Save the excitement for any quotes you include. For example, add a quote from your executive director that says “Without the incredible support of our community, this program would not exist.”

  • Avoid exclamation marks. As with editorial comments, save the excitement for your quotes and eliminate any other exclamation marks that may have snuck in. I once read that exclamation marks make your writing look like it is hyperventilating

Here are a few more resources we use to develop our press strategies:

We review the press releases of other nonprofits, especially those that presumably have well-oiled media departments:

The Communications Toolkit is worth its cost and a lot more (It’s FREE!)

Want to read more about press releases? Here’s an article we like on how to write a press release

Do you have tips or lessons learned from successful press releases? Leave us a comment and let us know!

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