News Releases

From Media for Social Change: A Resource Guide for Community Groups (Revised edition, 1986), published by the Community Forum on Shared Responsibility, Toronto.

News releases (radio and television reporters don't like the term 'press release') can be used when your group has information it wants distributed quickly and widely. A news release should be simple, timely, short and broadly accessible. It can either stand on its own or entice reported to follow it up by seeking more information.

For maximum impact, news release should follow standard journalistic style:

- double-spaced
-60 character lines
- paragraphs indented half a line
- typed in upper and lower case letters
-wide margins for copy editors' marks
- don't put underlining on the page; it confuses typesetters and won't appear in a newspaper anyway
- on the upper right corner, type release times: For immediate release on (date); Embargoed until (time, date).
- For immediate release give a headline. It should be teaser to lead the reader into the story.
- Dateline, typed in upper case letters, indicates where the story has come from

- use one side of page only
two pages maximum
- end with -30-
- give name of contact person day and night

In terms of content, tell the story in newspaper-like, inverted pyramid style:

- give the most crucial information first. The first paragraphs should quickly answer the five standard questions of news writing: Who, What, When, Where and Why. The succeeding paragraphs should develop the facts in descending order of importance.

- give a time peg, to relate the story to the immediate present. Stories can also be based on anniversaries, such as those of major speeches, strikes, assassinations or deaths. The Socialist International calendar is a good source for anniversary dates.

- give a local angle: "North York mayor bites dog''

- give an angle tailored to the media you are trying to reach: ``Steelworker arrested'' (a story for union papers); ``Catholic priest arrested'' (story for church papers).

Other points to keep in mind when issuing news releases include the following:
- there may be a niche for your story in the special interest media, such as the medical papers, local papers, small-town radio stations, or church newsletters

- out of town and small news outlets will be grateful for photographs, so supply them with action shots, or close up shots

- if you have photos, but don't wish to send them out unless requested, note on the news release that they are available, and list them. Also list audio tapes and video, if available.

- you might wish to include a photocopy of photos: get a dot sheet from photocopy manufactures; it can be used with any photocopier and provides fairly good reproductions.

- include a cutline with the photo, identifying people left to right. Give full name, middle initial, and explain why they are in the photo. Give extra details.

A quick way to get your news release around to most mainstream media is to take it to Queen's Park and leave it in the Press Gallery mailboxes of those outlets which have representatives there.

The standard guide to news style is The Canadian Press Style Guide, (available 36 King St.E, Toronto, M5L 2L9). Conforming to standard news style will make you material more acceptable to reporters and editors.
It may be worthwhile to have your group included on the mailing lists of government departments of special interest to your group. Send a request to their public relations departments.


Related Resources:

News releases that work - and those that don't - What makes a good news release.

Successful news releases - 7 Must-Know Tips - Before you send out a news release, make sure you know what's you're doing.

Media Names & Numbers - If you're going to contact the media, you need a good media list. This directory (in print, online, and also available as a database and mailing list) has listings and contact information for all print and online media in Canada. Also available as a database and mailing list.

News Release Distribution - If you want to contact a lot of media outlets at once, it may be better to use a news release dissemination service.

Media Calendar - If you are promoting an upcoming event that you want the media to cover, you can list it in the Sources Calendar, which reaches journalists across Canada. Listings are free if your organization is listed in Sources; there is a small fee if you aren't.

Sources - The directory which connects organizations with messages to get out to journalists looking for spokespeople and experts on the issues they are covering. Both the online and print versions of Sources are widely used by reporters, editors, producers and freelancers working on stories. - Web site featuring practical articles about media relations and public relations.


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