Speaking to the Press
Our tips and guides on speaking to the press!
Click on the buttons below for out quick guides on speaking to the press, from writing standardised boilerplates to writing a press release and sending it to relevant press sources.
What is a Boilerplate and Do I Need One?
What is a Boilerplate?
A boilerplate is usually found at the end of a press release when speaking to the press and serves as a brief description of your organisation and it’s activities. The same Boilerplate is usually included on every press release or item used when speaking to the press and media, to create a homogeneous impression of your organisation.
A boilerplate should be clear, up to date and short in length. Avoid technical language, be concise and avoid using opinionated claims such as “our company is the best in the market”.
What should a boilerplate include?
A boilerplate should give anyone who reads it, whether speaking with the press or just putting a short biography on your social media, with enough information about you to understand:
- Where are you based, when were you founded?
- What your organisation does and who does it help?
- Where to find out more information?
Once you have written the first draft of your boilerplate, try to boil it down (hence the name!). Try to reword it to contain fewer words.
How to Write a Press Release
How to Write a Press Release
The art of writing press releases relies on being able to find the story in your announcement. Before starting to write, focus on where the story is in your information. Unfortunately, quite often press releases are not newsworthy and are often are ignored by journalists for this reason. If the journalist doesn’t think your information is interesting, it won’t get coverage.
So what are the key elements that a journalist will look for in a story? For charities and members of the VCSE sector, quite often our press releases will rely on the “human interest angle”. If you can find your human interest story and show the impact your news will have, you will be able to write a great press release for public consumption.
What do I put in my release?
To find out what needs to go in your press release, you need to answer the following questions in your writing.
Start out by writing down the answers to these questions:
- Who is your story about? Who are the key players- your charity? Volunteers? Beneficiaries?
- What? What’s new? Why is this news?
- Why? Why is it important that you announce this news? What about this information is different? What is the big development you are announcing?
- Where? Where will this news affect? Where are the people who will benefit? Where will it take place?
- When? When will your news come into effect? How long will it last? Is it part of a national campaign?
- How? How will this help people? How did it come about?
From this starting point you can begin to piece together your press release. Most press releases go through several iterations before being released, so don’t worry if your first attempts from the answers you’ve just written down don’t read well. As long as you keep referring back to your list of answers you won’t lose sight of your purpose.
It is often helpful to take a look at brief press releases in local news papers to get a good idea of the structure you are aiming for, but if you can not capture the essence of the information you want to relay in 50 words of fewer, your release will need more work.
Ideally, the first paragraph of your release should tell everyone what they need to know, and be about 50 words long- this is because news media tends to shorten information for excerpts.
The Target Audience
It is important to focus on your target audience. Who is it that you want to read your information? If you are announcing an event for a certain group of the general public, you need to focus on where and who will read your release. Is there a specialist publication? Will national media be interested? Will local media be interested?
When thinking about your audience, consider what knowledge they have of your organisation and activities and tailor your language and information to foster a better understanding in your audience. If you think that many of your target audience will not have heard of your organisation before, focus on putting information in your release.
How Will It be Structured?
Your press release should be factual in tone, short and condensed. Try to avoid waffling and stick to non-technical terms which will give your writing a punchy quality. If you are writing for a broadcasting publication like the radio, remember that the broadcaster will only have read the first paragraph before speaking on air.
You need to indicate at the top of your press release whether or not it is for immediate release or if it is under embargo until a certain date.
Give the release a title which will attract attention and encourage the journalist to read more- the journalist will probably change the title to fit in with their publication’s ethos, so don’t worry if the title will look good in print.
Using wide margins, sans serif font and double spacing will make your release easier to read and give space for the journalist to make notes.
How long should your press release be? The answer is that it should be as long as you need to get your information across and no more. If your press release is more than two pages, double spaced, then you’re writing an article and not a release. Try to keep to as few paragraphs as possible, as long as you don’t miss out any vital information.
Whilst you need to get all of your information into the first paragraph, in basic form, you can expand on what you’ve already said in the following sentences.
When you are finished writing, make sure to indicate that your press release is finished by writing “ENDS” in bold. Don’t forget to add your contact information below in case the journalist wants to get in touch!
If you need to add in any more information you can attach “notes to editors” beneath your contact information. This might include some background boilerplate information or a note informing them that photographs are available.
Distributing Your Press Release
Who Should I Send My Release To?
Don’t for get to research the media you intend to target before you write your report. When your release is finished identify your target publications. There are many layers of media to target:
- Local Media: Local newspapers, magazines and publications (e.g. Stockton News, Billingham Community Newspaper, Evening Gazette, Herald and Post)
- Specialist Media: Specialist magazines and publications that your organisation may fit with (e.g. charity newsletters, Catalyst Chronicle)
- Specialist Media: specialist magazines and publications that your target audience will read (e.g. writing for diabetics? Diabetes UK has a newsletter)
- Consumer/National Media: If your information is of national importance, try targeting the larger media outlets or national press.
How do I get my Press Release to Journalists?
Most media outlets will have a primary contact for submitting information, which usually can be found on their contact page. Press Releases should always be sent in an e-mail. Try to use the title of your release as the title of your e-mail to get the attention of the reader. Most news outlets have automatic blocks on attachments- so copy the content of your press release into your e-mail rather than attaching it onto the email.
Follow up your press release with a call to the media outlet to make sure they received it and talk about how to sell your idea.