VALUE: This article will help you write a press release for a church, school, or nonprofit organization event.
By Benjamin J. Gohs
Whether your church is planning a fundraiser, your school is hosting dinner and a show, or your charitable group is doing community outreach, you’ll want potential customers and interested stakeholders to know all about it.
Writing a press release might seem both daunting and time-consuming but a little extra work on your part will go a long way toward moving your submission to the top of the editor’s TBR pile.
Step one: Be clear in your mission
If your church will be holding a benefit dinner next Tuesday to raise money for a family displaced by a fire, now is not the time to discuss church history nor another upcoming event.
By sticking to one topic, you’ll make your life easier and avoid confusing or annoying editors already in a rush to turn bloated chunks of data into understandable articles of value to their readers.
Step two: Keep it brief
Most event announcements can and should be kept to just a few sentences.
Aim for a finished article of 150 to 350 words.
If social media popularity has taught us one thing, it’s that people like to skim.
Plus, readers can always learn more by going to your website.
Not only will editors appreciate you respecting their time, they will have more luck placing a short, rather than a long, piece.
Step three: Do what works
Readers want to get in, get informed, and get out!
The best press releases consist of the following structure:
- Punchy target keyword headline
- Interesting and informative first graf
- High information density second graf
- Additional paragraphs—only if necessary
- Powerful and memorable call to action
Step four: Write a draft
One of the biggest writing mistakes we see, in both laymen as well as professionals, is the hesitancy to get started.
Most of us begin by trying to compose in our minds instead of putting those thoughts down on paper.
Fear of writing sentence fragments and uninspiring words tends to creatively paralyze people.
But even the best writers begin with a hodgepodge of verbs and nouns.
Unfortunately, there really is only one way to write, and that’s one word at a time, one sentence at a time.
So, grab a pencil and paper and write the most important things you wish to convey about your subject.
Keep it to one double-spaced page or less. That’s approximately 350 words.
The example included later in this article is around 115 words.
A good guide to follow:
- Write the time/date/place and name of your organization’s event.
- In a sentence, say who, why, or what it’s for.
- Tell your reader why they should care and what their support will accomplish.
- Include a call to action. Direct your reader to find more information at a website or have them email you to RSVP. Don’t forget to include social media handles.
Step five: Write, revise, reread
Take all that wonderful content you’ve amassed and turn it into a press release that editors will be happy to read.
Headline example: Fundraiser to help local fire victims
1st Graf: Westminster Abbey will host a spaghetti dinner from noon to 5 p.m. on Tuesday Nov. 23 to benefit the Smith family, who recently suffered a devastating house fire.
2nd Graf: Longtime Westminster residents John and Jane Smith and their three school-aged children are homeless and in need of your help after losing their house and belongings to a fire back in August.
3rd Graf: The $10 per person dinner is all-you-can-eat and includes (menu items). Proceeds will help the Smiths buy essentials like clothing, furniture, personal items, and food.
4th Graf: To support the Smith family during this most difficult time, please RSVP by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or call (111) 111-1111. Monetary donations can be made to Westminster Abbey, 111 Abbey St., Westminster, England 11111.
Step six: Proofreading
If the first thing you do after submitting an article is reread the piece, you are sending your work out in too big of a rush!
- Once you have written your press release, put it down for a few minutes or even a few hours.
Writing is an intense process. Even professionals need a break after creating.
Not only will you catch more spelling mistakes with a fresh set of eyes, you’ll be more likely to spot wonky words, bad grammar, and poor sentence structure.
- When you are ready to proofread, take your time.
The horror stories professional writers could tell you about the time they skimmed their work before submitting are legion.
- Be methodical in your approach.
- 1st pass – Read for clarity
- 2nd pass – Look for spelling and grammatical errors
- 3rd pass – Double-check times, dates, places, names, titles, and contact information
Step seven: Sending your press release
Be sure you have the correct editor or department and that their contact information is up to date.
People change jobs, retire, and die. After all that hard work, you want to be sure you are submitting to the correct person.
You also want to be sure your information is going to reach its intended audience.
Roughly half the correspondence editors receive is from people who’ve blanket emailed every publication they could find.
Just try to keep in mind that indiscriminately submitting is a waste of your time and theirs.
Don’t want the hassle of trying to compose compelling copy? Help is just an email away at: email@example.com