Meet our Expert
Celina is the editor of Fundraising magazine and daily contributor to CivilSociety.co.uk. Previously Celina worked as a freelance feature writer for newspapers and magazines in Australia and the UK. Celina was also a Ken and Yasuko Myer Fellow in 2004, which saw her intern at Manilla-based newspaper, the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
“How to write a charity press release”
Press releases can be a valuable way for journalists to be let known about events and stories, but it’s surprising how often the basics are forgotten.
When writing a press release for a charity there are certain fundamentals that should be adhered to.
- Be honest. Is your campaign or discovering really ‘ground-breaking’ or ‘innovative’? These are some of the most over-used words in press releases. Don’t over claim and you’re more likely to be listened to.
- Give us time. It’s patronising to say, but date press releases. Journalists receiving your release via email, or scouring your archive, need to know when your release was released.
- Don’t be afraid to embargo. Embargoes can be helpful in giving journalists time to do a story properly, so consider using these. Don’t make the embargo too long, though, because it is possible we’ll forget all about it.
- Check our facts. This is hygiene stuff, but make sure that you’ve got the names and publications right. Getting it wrong emphasises to the journalist/publication that you’ve sent your release everywhere, which doesn’t make us feel we’ve potentially got a great story on our hands.
- Free up your people. Offering access to people within, or helped, by your organisation is really important. It gives publications a chance to get behind the story and so is likely to result in a better piece – for both the charity and the journalist.
- Pictures help. Don’t send massive files. Some low-res versions of pictures with higher-res available is always great. We live on pictures. These are particularly important for local newspapers. Many publications are more and more interested in videos too, so if you have some of these available – and relevant – then send a link over.
- Don’t be spam. We get literally dozens of emails before lunchtime. If your name or publication pops up every couple of days with a press release with tenuous relevance or news worthiness you’ll start to be ignored.
- Provide quotes. While allowing journalists to speak to your people is important, including good quotes from those same people in your release is also really important – and particularly helpful for journalists on tight deadlines. Use a couple of different people where possible and make them relevant – if it’s a local paper you’re sending it out to, try to get a local angle about how a project will impact on the region or why an issue is particularly important in that area.
- Chase up? Avoid calling a journalist ahead of time just to let them know you will send a release. We’re genuinely really busy and will just ask to see the release to judge whether it’s of interest. There’s nothing wrong with pinging an email over afterwards, though, to ask whether it was of interest or if they need any more information – it could work in reminding the journalist about something they might have glanced over.
In general a press release definitely not go over two pages, but if it’s a big issue you’re covering then send some supporting info in a separate document or make it clear that more detail is available. For beginners, a press release should typically be structured thus:
- Release or embargo date
- Brief points/ explanation of the release
- Detail about the issue/event/campaign/etc
- Contact details