by Stacy Jones
Nonprofit organizations can use a news release to announce their events or newsworthy information.
But keeping a news release to one page, with the most relevant, timely information is an important step is seeing the release published.
Too often, nonprofit news releases are filled with long summaries about their organizations, written in the wrong style or format and without the critical newsworthy information required to see the release published.
Changing a few simple things can help see the release in print – or on the web.
A journalistic style of writing is different than other forms of writing. In other nonprofit forms of communication, you tend to develop the piece throughout and it leads to a particular point or conclusion.
In journalism, getting straight to the point is critical. Later in the piece you develop the rest of the backstory.
Most news pieces are written in an Associated Press-style format. It wouldn’t hurt to pick up a copy of the AP style guide to better learn how to craft your news release.
Start the release with a headline that will grab the reader’s attention. This should be in a larger font than the actual copy of the release.
Next, on the right hand side, add the name of a contact person, their phone number, email address and the website address of the organization for easy reference.
On the left margin add the release date in capital letters, for example, FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 3, 2012.
Directly under that, the city and state and a dash followed by the lead sentence.
Write a strong first paragraph followed by the body of the release. At the bottom of the written copy add three pound signs (###) to signify the end of the release.
Every well-written news release starts with a strong leading sentence. The lead is the crux of your message.
A reader should be able to read your lead sentence and get an overall feel for what the release is about. It should be fairly short, straight to the point and should convey that point as clearly as possible.
Sometimes it’s necessary to write and rewrite your lead a few times. Never underestimate the power of a great leading sentence.
Here’s where you fill in the details and build on your lead sentence.
As mentioned before, in a release you often write backwards starting with the main points and fill in the rest later.
Let the readers know why the story is important. Pull in national research, facts and the meat of the story.
You can connect your story with a global cause showing your local impact; you can discuss the relevance to your local readership and why they would care about your story.
Speak to your audience in this section. You’ve caught their attention with the lead, now build in the “who, what, when, why and how.”
Don’t let this section just be a recitation of the About Us section of your organization’s website. Tell a story and connect why it’s relevant to your organization and your readers.
Strong relevant quotes always add to a news release.
Depending on the piece, let your leaders, staff or constituents be the storytellers for your organization.
A lot of relevant information about the story can be contained and summed up fairly quickly in a strong quote.
Let quotes relate the impact of the whole piece. And don’t be afraid to end your release with a strong quote – it can leave a lasting impression.
Stacy Jones is a senior project director at SHOESTRING: the nonprofit’s agency, and is located in Troy, NY.
Reprinted with permission of Philanthropy Journal.