How to Write a Press Release

Cheryl Dineen Ferrin, SAQA Marketing Directorby Cheryl Dineen Ferrin, SAQA Marketing Director

It is no secret that the journalism field has changed dramatically. Papers used to have lots of advertising and circulation that paid for the pages of news we used to read.  Magazines and daily newspapers - that have not closed - have cut their publishing schedule and/or the size of their publications. The number of reporters and editors has declined drastically and the space for news is at an even greater premium. If we can be interesting and concise in our news releases we will increase the likelihood that our release will be picked up in print, digital or broadcast form.

Timing and format can affect the success of your release. Press releases should be sent to monthly magazines 4 months prior to the publication date. I know that this may seem like a really long lead time but in the magazine publishing world 4 months is an eye blink. Newspapers have a much shorter story cycle and can work with releases 2-4 weeks in advance. Radio, TV and news Bloggers have an even shorter cycle.

As for the format of the release, follow the structure that newswires would use and your release will be recognized as a professional presentation. Most of the event-based news items we promote can be covered in a one or two page release – including an image. Most media outlets accept e-mail submissions of press releases eliminating the need to print and mail information. To help you format a professional press release, I recommend the PR Newswire Press Release Wizard:

  The wizard includes the following descriptions on each section of the release. Breaking the information down into these sections makes the process much more approachable and leads to a more organized and successful release. (I have modified these descriptions to be more appropriate for our needs.)
  HEADLINE: Your headline should succinctly describe the news item – some media members search only by headlines.  Headlines should be brief, descriptive and compelling.” The goal is to turn heads and invite readership.
  SUBHEAD: Not all releases need one, but if you're going to use one, make sure it's descriptive and builds on the headline.
  DATELINE: Includes the city of origin, and the date of the release.
  LEAD PARAGRAPH: This is the single most important paragraph in the whole release. If you don't draw your reader in here, you've lost them forever. This is your chance to set up your story in a single sentence or two.
  SECOND PARAGRAPH: This is where you dive into more detail and set up story for the reader, giving some more background or context.
  BODY& IMAGES: This is where you give all the relevant information for your reader, facts, stats, customer testimonials and other third-party information. Write with your audience in mind. Professional quality images are a must for a SAQA release. Nothing will draw people in like a picture of some really interesting artwork. . Place a good sized 72dpi image in the release and make sure the contact person – source - has a high resolution image available to e-mail to any interested media outlet that requests one.
  BOILERPLATE: This is the platform to tell your audience about your organization. Keep it brief; just who you are and what you do. Here is the SAQA boilerplate:

SAQA’s 3,000 members span over 30 countries and include artists, collectors, curators, art dealers and corporate sponsors. Since its founding in 1989, SAQA has mounted juried exhibitions featuring the works of artist members at museums and galleries throughout the world.

  CONTACT INFORMATION: Make sure to include contact name, phone number, and email address for your readers to use if they require more information. This can go either at the top or the bottom of the press release.
  SOURCE: The source is required. Who is responsible for the content of this announcement? Or, who is issuing this release?

Other things to include in your release

  KEY WORDS: Using strategically placed keywords throughout the release makes it easier for your audience to find the release when searching the web for information. Suggestions: Art quilt, exhibit, SAQA, Studio Art Quilt Associates, fiber art
  QUOTES: Having quotable quotes is a highly effective way of getting key messages out; keep them easy for readers to understand.

  When your release has been created in the wizard, click preview to see the text. Review your release and click edit to go make modifications. (“Send to my inbox” does not seem to work even for registered users like me.) When you have the release as you want it, select, copy and paste the text into your word processor. Now you can adjust the paragraph spacing that was lost in the copy process and add images with captions to complete the release.  You can copy this text and image into a new e-mail or save your release as a pdf and attach that to your e-mail.
   By all means, politely and professionally follow-up by phone or e-mail on the releases you send out. Please place on your distribution list so we can follow your release as well.
  Before you attempt your next release, go to the SAQA Pressroom and review some of the recent releases. This should give you some good ideas on design and adding images. Still have questions or need help converting your release to pdf? Give me a call or an e-mail and we will get you rolling again.

Cheryl Dineen Ferrin
SAQA Marketing Director
home/office: 269-668-4604
cell:  269-267-7993

Advice from member Jake Finch about press releases