A news release lets the media and others know about a policy, program, event, or activity. The release should have a clear objective. When developing a release, consider the following questions: What is the news? Who would be interested in the news? Who would care? What result do I expect from this news release (inform, educate, persuade, activate, etc.)?
Whenever possible, use existing resources to create news materials. This will save time and resources (see news release template
) or follow these basic steps to format a news release.
- Print the release on your organization's letterhead.
- Place the phrase "For Immediate Release" and the date on the upper left margin.
- Below the date or on the right margin, place your contact person's name and phone number.
- Compose a short headline that clearly describes the news release content and grabs the reader's attention. Set the headline in bold and center it on the page. Secondary headlines, or subhead, should be set in italics and positioned below the main headline.
Body of Release
- Begin the first paragraph with your dateline. The dateline identifies where the news originated. For example, "MADISON, WI—The Madison Health Department launched a new program today to help kids get active right in their own neighborhood."
- Also in the first paragraph, concisely summarize the facts—who, what, when, where, and why. Include the date, time, and other time-critical information related to your activities.
- In the second paragraph, insert a quote from a local health department leader, such as the director or project head, about the event or program. Be sure to identify the source of all quotes. Be sure that the quote's content explains and enhances the story and that the relationship between the person quoted and the story is clear. Try to limit the number of quotes to no more than two people.
- Include details on the policy, program, or event in the third paragraph.
- In the final paragraph cover basic organizational information (e.g., who you are, history of the event or program). If you have a list of member organizations, sponsors, or other partners, list them in an attachment rather than incorporating that information into the text of the release. This makes it easier for a reporter or editor to review.
Finishing Your Release
- The optimal length of a news release is one page. If it is necessary to go beyond one page, type "-more-" at the bottom of the first page.
- Finally, type "###" or "-30-" to indicate the end of the copy.
- Use short, declarative sentences and double-space the lines. Use an active verb and the word "today" in your first sentence.
- Avoid using jargon and explain any acronyms at their first use (e.g. "The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)…"). Avoid "puff" words and phrases such as "exciting," "very large," "monumental," etc. Be as clear and concrete as possible in your descriptions.
- Link the facts of the program or event to an important issue or need in your local community. Real-life examples help make the human connection and highlight benefits of your work to the community.
- Review the release for clarity and flow and check that all words and names are spelled correctly.