Elements of Political Communication: Traditional media guidelines – Press releases

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Your relationship with traditional media outlets is important.

Press releases are official releases from your organization regarding specific news, issues, or events. The purpose of a press release can vary widely; this chapter will focus on using this tool to communicate with professional news media outlets. Press releases are often written with a style that mimics that of local and major publications with the hope that the recipient will reprint the release verbatim.[1] The likelihood of an outlet publishing a straight news release decreases as the publication increases in size. That said, even if the release is not printed verbatim, it may influence the coverage of a particular topic or event.[2]

Content[edit]

Avoid editorial comments in press releases; state only the facts and pertinent information regarding the issue, such as the time, date, and location of an event. Always include personal contact information at the top and bottom of the release. This should be an individual within your organization that has an excellent understanding of the topic and will be available to communicate with interested publications. Journalists and editors choose which stories to explore; therefore, an accurate and descriptive headline and lead section may earn their attention. Finally, include a very brief boilerplate, a final paragraph that contains basic information about your organization, including a broad description of your activities. Consider writing at least two versions of the boilerplate: one for organizations that clearly already know what your organization does, and another for those that may be less familiar.[3]

Format[edit]

Though there is no required length, the average press release is between 300 and 500 words long. The importance and complexity of your subject will determine the length of your release, but in general, the entire document should be able to fit on a single page. Although the Associated Press Stylebook does not contain a set format for press releases, there are some formatting points to note.[4] Use a readable, 12-point typeface. Contrary to popular belief, typefaces such as Times New Roman do not increase readability;[5] however, it is advisable to use a widely-accepted font throughout the release. Avoid all instances of formatting for emphasis except where noted in the template. Include a centered "# # #" at the end of the release.

Ensure that any images you include in the release are prepared for publication. Use a popular digital format, such as .PNG or .JPG. Since most digital cameras take larger pictures than are necessary for publication, resize the image to no more than 700 pixels wide. Include attribution information for the image, and only images for which you have explicit permission to use, both from the photographer and the subjects photographed.[6]

Examples[edit]

Template[edit]

Include the elements below in your release. The organization logo is optional, but all other information should be included in the correct format.

[Organization logo]


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Contact:
[Contact name]
[Contact phone number]
[Organization name]
[Contact email address]
[URL of organization website]

[Headline]
[CITY, State] (Month DD, YYYY) - [Message]

For additional inquiries please contact [Contact name] at [contact email address] or [Contact phone number].

About [Organization name]
[boilerplate]

# # #

Website launch[edit]

A generic logo for a local political party, with the words "Local Political Party" in large text, each word with its own line.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Contact:
Fake Name
(940) 555-5555
Local Political Party
email@example.org
http://www.example.org

Local Political Party launches new website at Executive Committee meeting
CITY, State (September 16, 2011) - The Local Political Party revealed its new website, at http://www.example.org, on Tuesday. The site includes information and resources, but also emphasizes engagement from residents.

Among many new functions, the site allows readers to share or comment on individual articles through social media networks. The first of its kind among political sites in the area, the "Speak Up" page connects residents with the editorial pages of local publications, allowing citizens to express their views quickly and efficiently.

The redesign is the first part of a communications strategy from the Local Political Party to engage constituents and create an open political environment in which political organizations respond to constituents’ viewpoints openly.

For additional inquiries, please contact Fake Name at email@example.com, (555) 555-5555.

About the Local Political Party
As Local Politicians, we seek personal freedom in the framework of a just society and political freedom in the framework of meaningful participation by all citizens. Our mission is to promote ideals and values within our communities through grassroots organization, education of the public, and election of qualified candidates through the use of ethical campaign methods. Together, we help shape a stronger America in which every citizen has the means to succeed through our community values: liberty, quality, and opportunity.

# # #

Notes[edit]

  1. Jacobs, Preformulating the News, 305.
  2. Tewksbury et al., "Interaction of News and Advocate Frames", 804.
  3. Treadwell and Treadwell, Public Relations Writing, 219.
  4. For an example of a press release from the Associated Press itself, see Associated Press, "2012 AP Stylebook Adds Fashion".
  5. Delange, Esterhuizen, and Beatty, "Performance Differences", 241.
  6. It is generally good practice to acquire explicit consent from a non-public figure before distributing an image of the person. See Krages, "The Photographer's Right"

Op-eds and letters to the editor