Press Releases and Press Conferences

A good press release is your group’s way of alerting the news media of your story. Crafting a press release is a skill that will come in handy when trying to get your issue or event covered. There are a few critical tips that will help save your press release from being tossed into the newsroom trash bin.

Your press release should read like a news story, not like your group’s manifesto. It should be no more than one page long. Include quotes from group representatives. Be sure to include phone numbers so that reporters can call to get more details and re-work your press release into their own story. Send your release in time to ensure it reaches the media before or on your release date. If you are far from a media centre, you can fax your release, or phone it in to the closest office of the Canadian Press (CP). CP is a wire service. If it puts your story on their service, it will automatically reach television, radio and newspaper newsrooms. It is then the decision of the news director in each outlet whether to use your story.

Pages to Include in a Press Kit

  • Cover letter or memo
  • Press release
  • Fact sheets or background information on different aspects of the issue
  • A sheet with quotes that explains your cause
  • A question and answer sheet that explains the issue in an easy-to-read way
  • Copies of other newspaper articles that explain your issue well
  • Charts, visuals or photographs
  • Background biography on your organization’s expert on the topic
  • A page that explains your organization and what it does
  • Business card or card with your spokesperson’s name and daytime phone number, along with name and address of your organization for a reporter to have at hand

Writing a Press Release

  • Write a strong, catchy headline up to 4 sentences in length
  • Include key information (who, what, where, when, and why).
  • Keep each paragraph short (1-3 sentences)
  • Keep the entire release to one page maximum
  • At the bottom of the page write “-30-” or “###” (indicates that anything above the mark can be published as is)
  • Be creative! Print your group’s letterhead and use bright coloured paper (ex: if your issue concerns water, print on blue paper)

Timing

To ensure the best coverage, choose the best time for launching your story. Consider:

  • Mondays through Thursdays between 10 am and 2 pm is the prime time for reporters being on the job and looking for news.
  • Consider hosting a strong, visual event around 5 pm or 10 pm for local live broadcasts.
  • Avoid Fridays! Saturday’s broadcast news has fewer viewers and the newspapers generally have less space for stories.
  • If you are holding a weekend event consider planning for Sunday to get coverage that night and the next day.

Media Advisories

When your group is planning an event, use this tool to alert the press. Similar to a press releases except that they are used to announce an event and have the “5 W’s” (Who, What, Where, When, and Why?) written down the left hand column to clearly outline what your group is planning.

Hold a press conference

It is a great way to get attention, but only hold one if you have a newsworthy story and have an acknowledged expert who normally wouldn’t be available. Hold press conferences somewhere that is familiar and convenient to the media. Try to avoid having to spend money to rent space. Is there a good community centre close to the downtown? Can you get the help of someone in City Council to use City Hall or the Regional Government Centre? Also, consider handing out leaflets with key information listed so reporters can refer to it in their stories and avoid misquoting you. See the Media Tools section for more tips.

Tip: Always follow up press releases with a phone call.