(Reprinted from Anarchy in Action)
The usual way to get information out to the media is to send out a press release. These are usually faxed or posted out to the media with a news story that you want them to cover. Use your judgement on whether to send out a press release. Send them regularly, but bombarding editors for the sake of it will put them off. If you’ve missed deadlines, don’t bother.
Tips for writing a press release:
* Mark NEWS RELEASE clearly at the top – plus your campaign name, phone number and logo.
* Next, put date of issue and mark “FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE” unless it is embargoed (see below). When publicising an event, make sure the press release is out well in advance.
* Use a snappy headline.
* Include a summary of the main facts in the first paragraph, including WHAT is happening, WHERE, WHY, WHEN and by WHOM. It needs to immediately grab an Editor’s attention or will be binned.
* The press release should be short, factual and well-written. Avoid opinionated rants and jargon.
* Use short paragraphs and simple sentences. Keep to one, or two at most, pages.
* Use a quote by an identified person to tell your side of the story. Use pseudonyms if you do not want your name in the paper.
* Write ENDS at the foot of the press release.
Ensure that there is a reliable contact with phone number on the release. This could include on- site mobile phone numbers. If you want the contact details printed in newspapers it must be in the main body of the text. If your press release is for an event, press conference or photo opportunity, include a map or directions.
If you do not want to go into massive detail on an issue in the main body of the text, but think it is of interest, include a Notes to Editors section at the end of the press release.
An embargo is a note at the top of the press release telling journalists not to leak or print the story before a particular deadline. However, never trust the press to keep them. When there was a banner drop on the roof of the DoT’s private detective agency, the Bath Chronicle broke the embargo on the release and ran a “protesters to invade detectives roof” story the day before! Luckily the snoopers were not clever enough to read the local papers and did not find out.
Follow the press release up with a phone call to make sure that it was received.
To get the press release out you can simply post them out first class. Make sure you address them to the appropriate correspondent or the newsdesk. This method is fine, but can get expensive and tedious if you have many press releases to send out. If you have a fax machine, it is worth creating re-usable fax headers on small bits of paper with the name of the journalist and their fax number on it. These will go through with the press release to make sure it gets to the right person.
Faxing press releases is also extremely tedious. Fortunately, most fax machines these days are programmable. This means that you can key in all the relevant fax numbers at the start, stick the press release into the machine and off it goes. The disadvantage is you cannot send different fax headers to the various numbers with the press release.
Probably the best solution is to use a fax modem, which sends your press release directly from your computer screen down the phone line to their fax machine. Fax modem software can incorporate database lists to which press contacts should be added. You can choose from your press database which journalists you want to send it to. Select them and then go to the pub while the machine does the work.