Press release tips and tricks: how to get your action into the media

A press release is a short compelling news story written by your campaign group, aiming to get your key messages, action, event or public statement in the media.

It should provide journalists with the information they need to write up the story, or compell them to get in touch to find out more or feature you in an interview. They may use most of your press release to form their article or they might do their own research and use your quote within a wider story.

Below is a how to guide for writing and sending press releases that will get your campaign in the press!

Writing a Press Release

1. Keep it short. Journalists are time-pressed. Get to the point quickly, get your quote in, explain any next steps and what your demands are, and put any background information in the footnotes.

2. Put in a quote from a spokesperson for your group, highlighting your key demands. Keep it short and clear.

3. Format format format – make it clear and easy for the eye to be drawn to the relevant information. (See template below)

4. Give it a snappy title that tells the key part of the story – ask yourself: would my uncle understand this? And if he did, is it interesting enough for them to read it?

5. Include contact information for follow-up questions. Name, email, phone number.

When to send it out?

1. The earlier in the day the better. Whilst we live in a 24 news cycle, newspapers are finalised and go to print in the evening. This means get it on a journalists inbox before lunch so they can work on the story, check facts and they still have space in the paper for it. Doing it sooner also gives you more scope to call them mid-afternoon and see if they got it okay and need more information.

2. If you’re doing an action which is legal and the police are expecting it, you can send out a press release in advance inviting press to the event. Make it clear when and where it’s happening, what the protest is about, and very importantly – what it will look like. If you have pictures for similar actions, link to them. Tell them there will be spokespeople available for interview, and think about it will look for photos/tv. Tell them you’ll have photos available to use after the action too.

3. If you don’t want the police to know about your action in advance (for whatever reason), it may not be the best idea to contact journalists in advance unless you trust them. Worst case scenario: the journalists contact the police directly, or contact whoever you’re protesting for a response – and they’ll call the police. Here, you can call journalists before and be vague on details (just tell them the time, general area and theme – unless it’s obvious what the target would be), or just call around/Tweet them, as soon as the action starts.

Sending out your press release

1. Have a good distribution plan – develop a press email list, call journalists in advance so they know what to expect and recognise your name, and put it online and tweet as soon as it’s sent out. Tag journalists in your tweet!

2. But wait, how do I make a press list – who are you sending it out to?

If you’re starting from scratch and don’t have any emails, try:

a. Call up newspapers/check websites before your action and ask to be put through to someone covering your issue – you can then quickly explain to them what’s going to happen, sell them on the story and get their email address. This maybe works better if you can do some research before and find out which journalist you want to speak to. Also a great way of establishing a personal contact, which helps get your story out…

b. Asking allies – do you know any other activist groups, NGOs, friends who are journalists etc? Ask them for contacts.

c. Twitter: most journalists are on Twitter. If you know which ones you want to reach, try direct messaging them, or checking if their email is in their bio under their picture.

d. Copy/paste: if you know someone who works at one newspaper but don’t know their colleague, you can usually guess it from the format. For example, if you want to get someone at the guardian, their email is [first name].[last name] @theguardian.com…

e. Google: if all else fails, maybe it’s hidden somewhere else online…

3. Make any photos and videos available to use. If you’re doing a protest which will produce pictures & video, attach a link to where they are uploaded & indicate they’re free to use. If you’re sending the press release out before photos/videos are online, indicate they’ll be
online from a specified time later in the day.

4. Monitor coverage – set up a google alert for your organisation’s name, or the name of your spokesperson. Share articles produced, and keep a record of any new journalists that cover your story – try to get their contact info and add them to your press list for future.

Press release template

[Name of organisation] Young Friends of the Earth Europe

Press release
[For immediate or embargoed release date] For immediate release, July 21 2010 or Under embargo until July 22nd 2019

***
[Title of press release – keep it short and snappy.]

[Indicate if photos/video are available] Free-to-use photos/videos from the action: www.url.com
***

[Location, date -] Forfar, July 21st –

First sentence: who, what, where, when, why? If referencing an event you’re protesting, research you’re publishing – anything external – put in a [1] footnote. 1-2 short paragraphs of explanation maximum. Eg: 50 activists from across Europe protested outside the offices of company Y in city x this morning, calling for an end to fossil fuel exploration.

Quote: Person x, spokesperson for Young Friends of the Earth Europe said “a catchy quote about the action which highlights the demands of the campaign”

Wrap-up: what’s next on the agenda for this issue – will there be a vote, a big political event, or another protest? Who are you calling on to do what – what are your demands?

ENDS
***
For more information, please contact:
Person x, spokesperson for Young Friends of the Earth Europe: email@address.net/ +44 012345678
***
Notes
[1] Link to any external info, or put in clarifying background information
[2] 1-2 sentence description of your organisation.

Example Press Release:

ANSTRUTHER CLIMATE ACTION
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tues 22 November 2020
PRESS RELEASE
10,000 RESIDENTS TELL ANSTRUTHER MAYOR TO END BP CHRISTMAS DEAL

Residents of Anstruther have handed a petition to the Mayor signed by 10,000 people calling for the Council to reject BP’s sponsorship of the 2020 Christmas Market. Campaigners say the petition, which is the largest in the town’s history, shows a complete rejection of the oil company’s attempt to win over the public.

Free to use photos of the petition handin : www.alink.com/photos

The petition states the money, believed to be approximately £10,000, should be given back to the company and for the Council to create an ethical sponsorship policy. Campaigners have collected signatures online, on stalls in the high street and going door to door to talk to neighbours. A representative from the group will make a deputation to the Council this evening.

Janet Smith, a midwife and local campaigner who helped gather signatures commented,
“BP is one of the leading companies responsible for the climate emergency. They have downplayed the science and slowed climate action down for decades. This grubby sponsorship deal is an attempt to win people over so that they don’t object to BP’s plans to run a pipeline through our community.

“I don’t think I’ve seen such a united response when talking to people in the streets. Anstruther folk can see right through BPs attempts to buy our affection and we are not interested. Councillors need to reject their dirty money and draw up an ethical sponsorship policy to prevent something like this happening again.”

The Anstruther Council will take meet tonight (22/9/20) to discuss the furore around BP sponsorship deal. Campaigners are expected to stage a small demonstration before the meeting outside the Town Hall from 7pm.

ENDS

More information: [YOUR CONTACT DETAILS, phone, email]
Notes to editors:
1. Details of the deal were revealed in the Anstruther Advertiser two weeks ago.
2. Link to petition
3. [ANY ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ABOUT YOUR LOCAL CAMPAIGN]