An Instructional Program For Adolescent Activities

How to Get Your "Stuff" in the Paper

Designed by:
Trina Bartlett
Adolescent Health Specialist
Community Council of the Kanawha Valley, Inc.
One United Way Square
Charleston, West Virginia 25301
(304) 340-3515 FAX (304) 340-3508


A press release is simply a way of providing information to members of your community.

Because many people read their local newspaper, it's a significant resource for boosting your organization's visibility and promoting its activities. A press release is one of the most common and most effective methods of giving information to the public. Also, important local people carefully read the local newspaper to keep up with what is going on in their community.

A. Goals

The purpose of this module is to provide you with the information and process for issuing a press release to be published in your local newspapers. By following the steps in this module, you should reach the following goals:

B. Reasons to Issue a Press Release

You issue a press release any time you want the public to know something. Usually, a release is used to announce an upcoming event or program, to provide information about how your program or group plans to attack a problem, to provide the public with your program's or group's views on a subject, and to remind the public of your program's role in the community.

The following are common reasons to issue a press release:

C. Audience

Before you even begin writing a rough draft, it's important to determine whom you want to reach. Then you can write your press release with that audience in mind.

Although you probably want to reach every member of your community with your message, you may be more successful in targeting a specific age, social, or socio-economic group.

For example, if you have statistics showing that the teen pregnancy rate in your county doubled during the past year, you may want to write a general release. (I.E., "A report released this week by the West Virginia Bureau for Public Health indicates Kanawha County's teen pregnancy rate doubled last year. Health officials say . . . ")

However, instead of targeting the general public, you may want to target parents of adolescents. (I.E., "If your child is between the ages of 15 and 18, there is a one in five chance that he or she will become a parent before graduating from high school. That's according to the latest statistics from the West Virginia Bureau for Public Health.")

Once you've chosen your target audience, you're ready to write your press release.

D. Deadlines and Time Requirements

You should be familiar with deadlines to make sure the release of your information is timely. You don't want to announce a program that will occur before the next issue of the newspaper is published.

Because deadlines vary from newspaper to newspaper, you should call to find out the latest date and/or time of day you can provide information for publication.

Keep in mind that the newspaper may not print your press release word-for-word and the reporter or editor may have questions or want more information. Therefore, you're better off if you don't wait until the last minute to issue the release.

E. Format

The following is a standard format for a press release:

F. Information to Include

The first few paragraphs of a press release should include the following:

Additional paragraphs can provide more details in order of importance.

G. Proofreading

Many newspapers may disregard your press release if it's poorly written or contains many mistakes. Because proofreading your own writing is often difficult, you should always ask at least one other person to proof the release. Often, if this person doesn't know much about the content of your press release, he/she makes a better proofreader.

Always triple check grammar, punctuation, spelling, statistics, names, facts, etc.

H. Promotion

This is probably the most important step in e

Your job isn't done once you've finished writing the press release. Call the newspaper and find out to whom you should mail or fax the press release. Even better, if you have the time, hand deliver it. This gives you an opportunity to promote your issue and discuss the contents of your press release with the newspaper staff.

If you mail the release, follow up with a call to make sure the appropriate person received it. You may want to ask if the staff has any questions and ask when the information will be published.

If the staff isn't sure the information will be published, ask why. Take advantage of the situation and explain why the information is important.

I. Evaluation

There are several ways to measure if your news release was successful in getting information to your intended audience. Use the following:

J. Lessons Learned

Remember, even if you follow all of the appropriate steps, your press release still may not be included in your local paper. A number of factors, including the amount and importance of other news, advertising space, and the staff's interest can affect whether or not your press release is published. Don't be afraid to call and ask why the information wasn't included in the paper. No matter what reason you're given, don't get discouraged. You may be successful next time.

Some newspapers receive more press releases than they can ever use. Whenever possible, be innovative and include colorful and interesting phrases and descriptions. If you sound enthusiastic, the editor may be enthusiastic also.

On the flip side, many community newspapers are desperate for press releases and newsworthy materials. Often, they are so desperate that the staff run a press release announcing an activity after the date the event occurs. It's up to you to make sure the newspaper receives the press release in plenty of time for it to be run before the activity or meeting occurs.

You may want to consider providing the newspaper with several nontimely press releases. These address topics such as program services, health and safety behaviors, helpful hints, etc. The newspaper can keep these on file and use them as needed.

The best press releases include quotes from an authority or someone directly involved with the program, descriptions of previous successes, statistics or events that underline the need for your organization's programs and services, etc.

Don't expect the newspaper to run all or any of your press releases word-for word. This depends on the size of the paper, how much space the staff will have during any given day or week, and the newspaper's style.

Take advantage of slow news days/weeks. For example, the holidays are always a slow time for news, even though advertising usually increases. (In most cases, the amount of advertising influences how large a newspaper is. A newspaper staff will almost always increase the number of pages to make space for more advertising. More pages means more room for news). Plan to issue at least one press release to run the week between Christmas and New Year's Day.

If you want to provide the newspaper with information about a new and exciting program but don't want the information printed before a certain date, you can embargo the information until a certain date. In addition to typing "FOR RELEASE ON," you can type "EMBARGO UNTIL" and the date the information can be published. This gives a reporter time to learn more about the program.

Make sure the person listed as the contact person is available to answer questions from both the press and the public. This individual should be very knowledgeable about the subject matter. If you put the president of the organization's name on the press release, make sure he/she knows EVERYTHING about the activity. Otherwise, it may be smarter to make the contact person someone involved in organizing the activity.

If you're the contact person and a reporter asks a question you can't answer, don't bluff your way through it. Tell the reporter you don't know the answer but you will find out and get back to him/her.

Always make a copy of the press release and send it to anyone involved not only with the project, but with the issue. Otherwise, they may be questioned about the article in the paper and may not even know what it was about.


1. Preparation and Pre-planning

2. Volunteer Activities

Recruit volunteers to develop the list of newspapers, addresses, deadlines, and contact persons. Volunteers can also type the press release, proof it, and make the appropriate number of copies. Make sure more than one person proofs the press release before it is mailed.

3. Activities

4. Post Activities