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For a nonprofit announcement to be considered newsworthy it must have a broad, general interest to the target audience and a strong news angle (e.g. material information, new development, drama, human interest, local angle, consequence, etc.). In addition, your release needs to be written in a journalistic, rather than marketing style. It should be objectively written as though a reporter were writing the story for you. Most importantly, your release needs to "inform" people, NOT just sell them something.
In most cases your headline is the first thing an editor sees when reviewing your release. An effective headline can make the difference between an editor covering your story or hitting the delete button. To create an effective headline consider the following points:
- Limit your headline to no more than one line. Many newsrooms have a limit on how many characters they can receive in a headline and their systems are programmed to reject releases that exceed this limit.
- The headline should provide an editor with a tantalizing snapshot of what the news release is about. This is critical as many journalists view releases over their wire system by headline only, then pick and choose when they want to view the full text of the release.
- The headline should include the name of the company issuing the release.
- Do not use exclamation points or dollar signs.
- Attribute all potentially critical, controversial, or judgmental statements.
Writing Style Requirements
Writing a professional and effective news release can be difficult. Here are a few guidelines to consider when crafting your release:
- Get to the point quickly and back it up with quotes and evidence.
- Use proper grammar and punctuation. Check for typos, and don't just rely on spell check!
- Address who, what, when, where, why and how in the news release.
- Double check phone numbers and URLs.
- Read your release aloud to see if it makes sense.
- Include quotes to convey opinion or affiliation.
- Don't forget to put your contact name, release date, dateline, web site URL and phone number in your release. Also make sure you are available for phone calls after sending the release out.
- Your release should be written objectively, as if the writer has no affiliation with the organization.
- Do not use pronouns such as I, we, us, our, your, etc. except in direct quotes. Write in third person.
- Do not use puffery statements or hype (i.e. we make the best widgets East of the Rockies), but do inform the reader of your status in your industry.
- Always include standard boilerplate information about your company in the last paragraph. The headline for this section should read "About (insert your organizations name here)."
Your release should be concise and to the point. You should be able to convey your message in two pages or less. Releases that are less than 50 words in length tend to be advertisements and cannot be run as a news release.
Yes, but sparingly.
Writing tips for Feature Releases
If your news release does not contain breaking news, you may want to consider submitting your release as a feature distribution. Feature releases often get play in the "lifestyles" or "living" section of newspapers and are designed for verbatim pickup. When writing a release as a feature, there are some additional tips you should take into consideration.
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