Media and communications are the direct line from great bicycle advocacy campaigns to the people who will spread the change. Without them, we might as well stay in our meeting rooms and never expect change. So understanding how to communicate well with our government officials and the people in our communities must be a top a priority for all bicycle advocacy leaders.
One important skill to have is Writing a Press Release that Gets Published. This two page handout is designed as an introduction for first timers as well as a checklist for veteran press release writers to ensure every press release for bicycle improvements gets published.
This document originally appeared on the Michigan Land Use Institute website.
First consider your AUDIENCE. When you write a news release your audience is people who work for the MEDIA.
What do reporters and broadcasters want? Information that is factual, easy to understand, and quick to reprint or report. Journalists often work on tight deadlines. They need COMPLETE, FACTUAL information. Provide it for them.
I. LENGTHA good news release is rarely more than a page or a page and a half in length. Take your message, boil it down, and synthesize it into a basic, thorough, compelling synopsis of whatever it is you are reporting. It doesn't matter whether you are debriefing people in a report, describing the results of a survey, or simply giving an update of a recent issue. Keep it short and simple.
II. THE ELEMENTSA news release needs to provide a complete overview of the issue:
- Figure out how you are going to frame your message - write a lead and a nut graph. These introductory paragraphs provide your audience with the latest compelling and newsy details of the issue.
- Move into the body of the news release. Fill in the gaps for reporters covering the issue. What is happening now? How is this a change from what happened before? What is the context of the new event?
- Provide a thorough background of the issue.
- Bolster the news release with quotes from sources that provide a unique perspective on the issue. These sources often serve as spokespeople for the story.
The only difference between an op-ed and a news release is REASONED PERSPECTIVE. Provide a thoughtful perspective on difficult issues, and use the Op-ed to break news..
When writing op-eds:
- Stick to the issue.
- Refrain from personal attacks.
- Praise other organizations and leaders whenever possible.