How to write a press release
Keep it simple
Don't start with the date. Start with the most important thing: the event or the group that's sponsoring it:
The Dogs of America Club (WHO) will hold a dinner (WHAT) Saturday, June 10, from 6 to 9 p.m. (WHEN) at the Golden Retriever Club on Poodle Avenue (WHERE). Directors of the club will discuss what dogs in Andover need for dinner (WHY they are meeting). The meeting is open to the public and there is no charge.
It's as simple as answering these questions:
Name a contact person
Always include the name of a contact person and his or her phone number. Often, the Townsman has questions, and if we can't find a person to answer them, your press release goes to the bottom of the pile and might not be printed at all. Let us know if your name and number are not for publication.
Remember the deadline
Our deadline is Monday at 5 p.m.; however, the school news deadline is Friday at 5. If you get your press release to us Thursday or Friday, we have more time to prepare it and it has a better chance of getting published.
Avoid common pitfalls
Here are some problems that contribute to some press releases and accompanying photos not being published:
- No name or phone number;
- Names incorrectly spelled that we don't have time to research;
- Incomplete information (where and, yes, even when, are some of the questions people forget to answer);
- Days and dates that don't agree (for instance, the dance is scheduled for Friday, Feb. 9 — except the 9th is a Saturday, not a Friday). We don't dare guess the correct date, so we call if there's a phone number and name, when we have time to call;
- Poorly written press releases: If we have to spend a long time rewriting it, we may not get to it. "Poorly written" includes the above omissions, but also means a press release that's written as if it were an advertisement.
For example: "The best jugglers in America will delight adults and children alike with their fabulous feats" and so on. Who says the jugglers are the best — and that they'll delight the audience? That's opinion, and opinion does not belong in press releases unless it is accompanied by an "according to," and even then we discourage it.
Example: "The jugglers, who were named best in show by Clown Magazine in August ...."
Submit it on time
We have limited space, so often we are not able to run notice of your event more than one time. So you must decide if you want it in the paper two weeks before the event or a few days before the event.
The best scenario for publication is to receive the press release before Friday [again, the school news deadline is Friday at 5; the deadline for the rest of the paper is Monday at 5] for it to be published in the following Thursday edition.
Our busiest days are Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, so we're most available (and friendly) Thursday and Friday.
Talk to us
If you have a special message or a request, write it down on the press release (such as noting that a name that looks strange really is spelled correctly, or that an Andover resident is heading the planning committee).
Localize your story
To be published in the Townsman, it is best if there is a local angle. We don't publish news of North Andover people, for instance, unless they are somehow related to Andover. And although our entertainment section covers events outside of Andover, we consider a play coming to Old Town Hall more worthy of publication than a production at UMass Lowell. And we consider something at UMass Lowell infinitely more interesting to Andover Townsman readers than a performance at Symphony Hall.
So the idea is that this is your very local newspaper, about Andover events and Andover people. If there's an earthquake in Salem, N.H., the only way we're going to write about it in the Townsman is with an Andover angle — perhaps an Andover resident was there at the time.
We're not saying that Symphony Hall or Salem, N.H., are not important or interesting. We're simply saying that this is Andover's paper, a paper about Andover and its people. We will leave the national and state news and press releases to The Eagle-Tribune, Boston Globe, Boston Herald, etc., unless we have the Andover angle on it.
Often, readers hand us fliers, posters and resumes and expect us to cull a story from them — chances are we won't have time.
- Please digest the information yourself and write a short press release for us in complete sentences. That way we can hand it to our typesetters, not to our editors.
- Don't write in the first person ("We're planning a party"); write in the third person ("The Golden Retriever Club is planning a party").
- Put the most important information first in the story. Write it as if you expect it to be cut from the bottom. Put the items you care less about at the bottom of the story.
- Don't use unattributed statements. Quote the key people, if you wish. ("We've been planning this canine gala for three months," said committee chairwoman Marion Labrador of Pheasant Run. "It;s a chance for dogs and their owners to swap stories and ideas.")
- Type (or, if you must, print) and double space.
- Do not type in all capital letters.
- Use a dictionary.
- Label photos and make sure everyone is clearly identified in photo captions.
- Supply full names in stories (not Ms. Smith, Mr. Jones, Mrs. Brown's third-grade class.
- Check the spelling of all names.