How To Write A Nonprofit Press Release
With the rate in which our world today is able to get news and information at the click of a button or with a swipe of a finger, press releases almost feel like a blast from the past. However, it has made the transition to accommodate the online world and is now available by other means aside from the traditional mediums of newspapers and magazines. Press releases serve a purpose for all kinds of organizations across the board, nonprofits included. Along with how your nonprofit press release can benefit your organization, in this article we’ll also break down the essentials in writing a solid press release and what you can expect after it goes live.
Serving a purpose.
Working with the rest of your nonprofit marketing strategies, a press release is another one of the many tools you can use to advertise your nonprofit. A press release can help put your nonprofit out there in the media and bring exposure to an upcoming event or campaign, a piece of noteworthy news, or highlight a recent achievement. Because of the nature of the press release, it will also be seen by a wide-ranging audience, further increasing exposure of your nonprofit and highlighting the news that your press release is about. But before you can hit the board and start constructing your press release, there are few things you have to ponder first.
Do some recon.
Before you even begin to write your press release, there are some aspects of the process that could influence your press release.
Read around: Do your research and see how other similar nonprofits write their press releases. Use that as an example to help your own writing.
Be mindful of your audience: Your press release will be read by a large range of people and although that may be dependent on where your press release will appear, the next bit is still relevant. Use clear and concise language: Meredith Janke in her article for CauseVox entitled, “8 Principles for Writing a Nonprofit Press Release,” suggests ditching the buzzwords. She suggests staying away from buzzwords such as “revolutionary,” “best-in-breed,” “next-generation,” and “game-changing.” Using these words will make your press release sound like every other ad on TV and online, and will make it easier for readers to pass over it entirely. Instead, approach the press release at the “’human' angle;” what your press release will mean to all kinds of everyday people across the board.
Timing: Everyone always says that it’s all in the timing and more often than not, that holds true. Knowhow Nonprofit in their article “Press Release Tips,” offers some of its own insights on timing your press release. Depending on what your press release entails, it would be a good idea to put it out during discussion of related current events. Knowhow Nonprofit offers the example where “if your charity is launching a report calling for more support for children in separated family, it would be good timing to launch it to coincide with a government announcement on family policy.” Bear in mind, the article advises, that there will always be things happening that will put a damper on your press release’s coverage; getting ahead of it and talking with people you may know in the media ahead of time before the press release goes live will give you a better chance of gaining media coverage.
The Anatomy of a Press Release.
Before we begin, let’s talk structure. In all of the many articles that have been written about press releases and composing one for nonprofits, one of the most useful points made was that of the Inverted Pyramid Technique. Imagine a pyramid, then turn it upside down. This technique helps your nonprofit structure its press release by loading all pertinent information at the beginning and then saving smaller, less significant details for the end. This means that even if a reader decides to skim through your press release, they will already have the information they need if they just skimmed even the first part of your release. We know that this might seem a little counter-intuitive and maybe even too distant or cold. Normally when you write things for your nonprofit, you’re able to really create and develop a story from beginning to end. In a press release, getting to the point is key. You can always add your storytelling elements as the release goes on.
To help illustrate a typical press release and show how the Inverted Pyramid Technique works we’ve used the template provided by the Georgetown University Berkley Center below and filled in some of the blanks with a few tips that we think might be useful.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (typically place at the top right of the page)
Date that it was sent out should be put here with the implication that it should be published once cleared. If your nonprofit would like for your press release to be published on a later date, indicate that in place of the immediate release.
As the first line that basically kicks off your press release, you headline should be attention grabbing. Take the time to create an engaging headline that draws people in in and makes them want to read on about your press release. Keep the headline brief try to use as few words as possible; however, be mindful of the words you choose as depending on whether or not your press release can be accessed online, the wording of your headline can bring traffic to your nonprofit website.
[City], [State], [Date] - [FIRST PARAGRAPH]
Start with a short 1-3 sentence summary outlining what the release will be about in the most straight-forward way possible. This will serve to bait readers into wanting to read further.
It is in this paragraph that we implement the Inverted Pyramid Technique. The first paragraph is meant that communicate the pertinent information of the press release: the who, what, where, when, why, and how, which the article “A complete guide to writing an effective press release” expands on a bit. Your nonprofit is meant to answer these basic questions in the first paragraph.
Who?: This bit is pretty straightforward as the who is your nonprofit. You can take it further by determining who will be effected by what you’re presenting in your press release and who can benefit from it, such as the needy groups your nonprofit serves.
What?: What’s going on, what news do you have to share?
Why?: Why is this press release (and its content) important? Why did it have to be communicated and shared?
Where?: Deals with basic details, location or geographical areas that could be effected or that your nonprofit is operating out of, if relevant.
When?: Is there a timeline? Like when a fundraising event will take place, for example, or when certain changes in your nonprofit will come into effect.
How?: We see this as an optional bit that could be included if you feel that it is relevant to the overall tone of the press release. How did all of this take shape?
With all of those questions answered, the second paragraph should develop on the first, adding more details to the initial information first presented. It is in this paragraph that your nonprofit could possibly get creative with some focused storytelling. Your press release should be straight-forward and without excessive wording or language. However, it would also benefit your press release to include a small tidbit about how this event is going to help you cause (i.e. people, solve a problem, deal with a social issue). Inject some warmth into your press release by telling a story and weaving the event around it.
[THIRD AND FOURTH PARAGRAPHS]
The first and second paragraphs out of the way, depending on how your nonprofit wants to structure the rest of the press release or on its tone, a quote and other information can follow.
Quote: Take a quote from one of the higher ups or other key players in your nonprofit (such as the CEO, Founder, or Head of the Board). The quote should be relevant and play a part in the content of your press release.
Other Information: It is here that you could possibly mention a previous, popular, or successful past event in order to help readers recognize your organization or further cement their opinion of you. If relevant, you can also use this part of the press release to cite research done, polls conducted, or case studies that give more breadth to the content of your press release.
Mobilize: Your press release should provide a strong call to action, whether it may be to participate in a fundraising event, participate in raising awareness, or donating for a recent campaign.
Give a clear and simple explanation of what your nonprofit is and what you do, with a link to your website. Have a fresh set of eyes read the release and explain what they understand from it so that you can learn what works and what doesn’t so you can change things around as needed.
To signal the end of your press release, put these symbols ### at the bottom of the page.
A few words about images.
If it is relevant, it could work in your favor to include a photo. Be conscious of the kind of image you include; be creative, be aware of your use of either black and white or color. Always include a caption with your image, or journalists and the rest of your audience won’t understand the significance or purpose of the image.
Revise, read, revise again.
This part is self-explanatory: when you write your press release, your first shot at it isn’t going to be the absolute best. In writing there is always room for improvement, always room for other ways and other angles to address what is being said. Have other sets of eyes read your press release and adjust it according to their observations. We suggest going through a couple of drafts before settling on the final draft. Creating an effective piece of writing takes time, you don’t want your press release to fail because of something as simple as poor grammar or misspelled word.
Following the release.
Share your press release throughout all social media platforms. Make sure you are also available when you do in order to tackle any concerns or questions from your followers. You nonprofit press release has the possibility of being published by a news site and you might even get some news or media attention from it. A press release can bring more traffic to your nonprofit’s website, especially since you include it in your press release.